ZERO and KBio alliance to build rapidly deployable plant-based molecular farming network for biological medicines

Globally distributed farming network to produce therapeutic, pandemic-preparedness and bioactive ingredients

by CEA inSight
Multilevel ZERO vertical farming installation with person in background

ZERO, an Italian AgTech company specializing in building and operating controlled vertical growing environments, is joining forces with KBio, a U.S. developer of plant-based biological treatments, in a strategic alliance that highlights intriguing applications for vertical farms. The companies intend to build what they report would be the world’s first transportable, rapidly deployable, globally distributed, plant-based molecular farming network. Among other goals, the network would enable the rapid development, large-scale production and deployment of antibodies and vaccines in response to public health emergencies.

The companies plan to design and build a portfolio of tailored, end-to-end solutions aimed at leveraging ZERO’s automated, modular, vertical plant-growing setup in combination with KBio’s expertise using the plant species Nicotiana benthamiana, a close relative of cultivated tobacco known as a highly efficient green bioreactor. Significantly, these flexible solutions could be rapidly deployed worldwide in emergency situations or operate in large, centralized hubs capable of offering commercial supply and development and manufacturing services to multi-sector customers.

Multi-level ZERO vertical farming installation
ZERO vertical farming installation

“ZERO’s proprietary hardware and software technologies enable a substantial advantage in terms of productivity, installation speed, scalability and cost-effectiveness compared to the industry average,” said Daniele Modesto, Chief Executive Officer at ZERO.

“With this strategic alliance, ZERO plans to integrate KBio’s technologies in all of its commercial farms in Europe, GCC, SEA and North America to enable an immediate response to pandemic emergencies with the rapid production of antibodies and vaccines. We look forward to working with KBio on utilizing our state-of-the-art vertical farming technology in combination with their plant-based platform to achieve our joint mission of rapidly developing new solutions to benefit people’s lives on a global scale.”

KBio Chief Executive Officer Patrick Doyle added, “What makes KBio a world leader in the plant-based production of biologics is that our platform allows for the development of highly pure proteins at a higher efficiency and lower cost compared to current technologies. …  We’re excited to be collaborating with ZERO on leveraging each company’s respective capabilities to develop plant-based solutions using a broad spectrum of modalities in a variety of spaces.”

Doyle noted plans for the KBio and ZERO alliance include joint R&D activities in the United States, UK and Italy: “These efforts will involve the production of monoclonal antibodies, vaccines and various bio-industrial products with B2B applications in the food, nutraceutical, cosmetic and pharmaceutical sectors.”

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