By Ann Marie Ames
DELAVAN — Outside, it was a chilly, damp April morning. Nothing much was growing in the industrial park on Delavan’s east side.
Inside, however, the weather was sunny and bright and plants were bursting into life.
They looked like plain, boring potato plants, although the bright green leaves were a pleasant sight this time of year.
But these potatoes are like no others in the world.
They make medicine.
Bob Britt beamed as he took guests into the laboratory at PlantPharm BioMed on Woolsey Street in Delavan.
“This is the farm of the future,” Britt said.
In other words, it is “the world’s leader in plant-derived biomanufacturing.”
That’s the business of using living tissue to make medicine. Most often, companies use yeasts, insects, fish or mammalian tissue, according to PlantPharm literature.
Britt has worked in agribusiness for 35 years, mostly in the hybrid seed business. Today, his job is a hybrid—commercial agriculture married the pharmaceutical industry.
“We formed PlantPharm specifically for taking the product into the marketplace,” Britt said. “We already know what we’re doing on the agriculture end.”
Britt and his partners at PlantPharm have genetically engineered the plants to create the hepatitis B vaccine. The production method will make a cheaper, more stable hepatitis B vaccine than is available on the market, and the Delavan company is poised to be the first to make it happen, Britt said.