The skyrocketing costs of prescription medicine in developed countries and their lack of availability in developing countries are the most challenging problems of human health. Many of the reasons for the high costs of pharmaceuticals are directly related to fermentation-based production systems, expensive purification methods, low temperature storage, transportation, and delivery through sterile injections. Most of these expenses could be minimized or eliminated with biopharmaceutical proteins expressed and orally delivered via plant cells. Therefore, one of the primary goals of the Daniell lab is to produce human therapeutic proteins in tobacco plants for large scale purification and intravenous deliver. Examples of such therapeutic proteins are: insulin (for treatment of diabetes), interferons (for treatment of viral diseases and cancer), insulin like growth factor (for treatment of liver diseases), and vaccine antigens against infectious diseases like cholera, amebiasis, anthrax, plague, hepatitis.
Another major goal is to express these proteins in edible plant parts so that it can be orally delivered eliminating the need for sterile injections. Publications and posters listed on this web site provide scientific and technical details about these projects. We also work to improve agronomic traits in plants. One of the major concerns surrounding the widespread use of genetically modified crops is that they may transmit introduced foreign traits to other related crop species or wild relatives. Such transmission could occur through pollen and this could lead to formation of wild populations where the foreign trait becomes established. This concern could be addressed by biological containment methods. The Daniell lab has developed and advanced chloroplast genetic engineering approach, which minimizes pollen transmission because chloroplast genomes are maternally inherited (transmitted through the female parent).
More, recently, Daniell lab has developed the cytoplasmic male sterility approach, which completely eliminates escape of foreign genes via pollen. Using these environmentally friendly approaches, plants have been genetically engineered in the Daniell lab to confer resistance to insects, herbicires, diseases (fungal/bacterial), heavy metal toxicity or develop tolerance to high salt or drought. Several major crops, including cotton have been genetically modified via the chloroplast genome.
In order to facilitate these studies, several chloroplast genomes have been fully sequenced, including: soybean, potato, tomato, coffee, orange, and lemon. A major genomics project to sequence fifty chloroplast genomes is in progress along with the development of the required bioinformatics tools.
The Daniell laboratory is a world leader in these research areas and their findings have been featured on the cover of several premier scientific journals and appeared in the press, including: CNN, BBC, CBS, ABC, NBC, New York Times, and Scientific American. Professor Henry Daniell has been recognized for his contributions by election into the National Academy of Sciences of Italy (14th American in 222 years, past members include Benjamin Franklin & Albert Einstein) and at UCF as the first Trustee Chair in Life Sciences. This web site provides technical and scientific details on these projects.