• Genetically modified chickens that produce human proteins in their eggs can offer a cost-effective method of manufacturing drugs widely used for treating cancer and other diseases, a study has found.
  • High quantities of the proteins can be recovered from each egg using a simple purification system and there are no adverse effects on the chickens themselves, which lay eggs as normal.
  • The findings provide sound evidence for using chickens as a cheap method of producing high quality drugs for use in research studies and, potentially one day, in patients.
  • Eggs are already used for growing viruses that are used as vaccines, such as the flu jab.
  • This new approach is different because the therapeutic proteins are encoded in the chicken’s DNA and produced as part of the egg white.
  • The team have initially focused on two proteins that are essential to the immune system and have therapeutic potential — a human protein called IFNalpha2a, which has powerful antiviral and anti-cancer effects, and the human and pig versions of a protein called macrophage-CSF, which is being developed as a therapy that stimulates damaged tissues to repair themselves.
  • Just three eggs were enough to produce a clinically relevant dose of the drug. As chickens can lay up to 300 eggs per year, researchers say their approach could be more cost-effective than other production methods for some important drugs.
  • Protein-based drugs, which include antibody therapies such as Avastin and Herceptin, are widely used for treating cancer and other diseases.