Scientists Are Growing Vaccine-Laced Lettuce at Penn’s New South Bank Site
The Inquirer’s Inga Saffron took a look last week at Penn’s short-term plans for its new site on the South Bank of the Schuylkill River, which has been dubbed Pennovation Works. And cringeworthy name aside, it looks like the 23-acre, former industrial site has a pretty exciting future.
Case in point? The newly-built Penn Research Greenhouse, where scientists are already growing genetically modified plants laced with vaccines. Yeah. True story. Check out the video below, which was put together by Urban Engineers, the planning and construction firm that built the highly-specialized greenhouse.
The project is being led by Henry Daniell, a molecular biologist who’s on the faculty of Penn’s School of Dental Medicine. The idea is to develop cheap, easily transportable vaccines that don’t need to be refrigerated like common vaccines do. The “cold chain” of refrigeration can be a difficult hurdle to clear in undeveloped parts of the world.
But vaccine-packed plants are a different story. Their leaves can be harvested, freeze-dried, powdered and put into capsules with a long shelf life. And they’re potent. Daniell has said that the U.S. population could be immunized against anthrax—frigging anthrax—with an acre’s worth of genetically modified tobacco plants.
If this is the sort of innovation we’re going to see from the Penn units and private sector startups down at Pennovation Works, they can call the campus whatever they like.