NEW YORK – It's an eye-catching angle in the story of an experimental treatment for Ebola: The drug comes from tobacco plants that were turned into living pharmaceutical factories.
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Using plants to pump out proteins for medicine isn't a standard technique in the drug industry. But some companies and academic labs are pursuing it to create medicines and vaccines against such targets as HIV, cancer and norovirus, a germ known for causing outbreaks of stomach bug on cruise ships.
Most of the work uses a tobacco plant, but it's just a relative of the plant that ends up in cigarettes. Scientist favor tobacco plants because they grow quickly and their biology is well understood.