Rows of leafy tobacco plants are growing in a humid greenhouse in South Africa — they look identical but one row is special. These are genetically altered plants, carrying the shell of the human papilloma virus, which causes cervical cancer.
This article describes how a team at the University of Cape Town is pioneering the use of genetically altered tobacco plants to produce a vaccine against cervical cancer — the biggest cancer killer of women in southern Africa.
Led by Zambia-born viral biotechnologist, Ed Rybicki, the team is hoping to develop an affordable vaccine for the local market. Rybicki notes that working on such vaccines carries significant advantages for developing countries, namely that they can choose to tackle orphan diseases neglected by pharmaceutical companies.