First Harvest of Plants Containing Botulinum A Antibodies Produces Good News for Food-Safety Testing

TORONTO -- Antibodies to Botulinum Toxin type A have just been harvested from a crop of tobacco plants in Ontario. Developed by the Department of Environmental Biology at the University of Guelph, and funded by Toxin Alert Inc., the Healthy Futures for Ontario Agriculture program and the Ontario Challenge Fund, the antibodies will be used in a diagnostic tool to detect the Clostridium botulinum bacteria in food.

"The initial success of this quick, clean, and economical method of producing antibodies ensures that there will be adequate and affordable supplies in the future of the basic ingredient in Toxin Alert's Toxin Guard food freshness and food safety tests," said Dr. Ted Petroff of Toxin Alert Inc. Toxin Alert Inc. is developing film wrap and bags to detect pathogens in food.

The fully functional antibodies were produced by Dr. Chris Hall and his research team through a process that completely bypasses the traditional animal (mouse-hybridoma) system of producing antibodies. According to Hall, "This synthetic gene method of producing antibodies and other proteins holds great promise with regard to plant design, cost and the elimination of any potential transfer of animal-based diseases. Our process is quite flexible and our group is currently developing tobacco plants that express antibodies to pathogens such as Salmonella typhimurium, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and Listeria monocytogenes."

The tobacco plants were grown under quarantine in greenhouses in Southwestern Ontario under normal growing conditions. The antibodies were extracted at Toxin Alert's laboratory in Toronto, Ontario, and further processed at the Department of Environmental Biology at the University of Guelph. The success of the tobacco-based antibody project is due in large part to Hall's management of a team of collaborators, including the National Research Council of Canada, the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and Ontario Agri-Food Technologies.

Toxin Alert is a biotechnology company dedicated to bringing its Toxin Guard technology to market. Toxin Guard is a patented system of placing antibody-based tests on polymer packaging films to detect pathogens or other selected micro organisms. The company aims to leverage its patented technology into a commercialized food safety product.

The University of Guelph is one of the most research-intensive universities in Canada and is internationally renowned for its broad spectrum of research. The University of Guelph receives more than $100 million in research funding from government agencies and private sector partners.

Source: Toxin Alert Inc.

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