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BIOTEC-07-2017: New Plant Breeding Techniques (NPBT) in molecular farming: Multipurpose crops for industrial bioproducts

Specific challenge:

Molecular farming involves the production of pharmaceutical and industrial compounds in plants through advanced technologies and it offers a competitive platform for the manufacturing of high-end products. Examples are plant-derived vaccines and the production of other commercially valuable proteins or small molecules. Indeed, plants are highly amenable to the production of a wide range of proteins, some of which are specific. In addition, the scalability allowed by plants exceeds that of other production systems. Molecular farming represents a development opportunity for a set of new high-value crops, for the health, chemical and agricultural industries and their related technology sectors. However, the expansion of molecular farming has been dawdling, due to its reliance on standard genetic modification and the hurdles it poses for commercialisation. In the past ten years, complementary and more sophisticated new plant breeding techniques (NPBT) have been developed to produce new plants with the desired traits circumventing the main drawbacks of standard genetic modification (i.e. no foreign DNA is contained in the resulting end product). The use of NPBT for molecular farming could provide opportunities for new crops for the production of bioproducts, while maintaining the position of leadership of the European plant breeding sector in research and innovation.


Proposals should use the technologies comprised in the NPBT set24 , in particular those that avoid final genetic modification products, with plants amenable to be used as green factories in order to yield industrial high-value products. Proposals should address at least one of the following areas:
- Minor, underutilized and non-food crops suitable for the extraction of bioactive compounds.
- Crops that grow more efficiently and have higher yields of the target bioproduct, while being more tolerant to adverse environmental conditions.
- Improved plant-based low-cost platforms for commercial production of bioproducts. Proposals should address elements of Social Sciences and Humanities (SSH), contributing to a better understanding of plant breeding and related biotechnologies by the general public. Activities are expected to focus on Technology Readiness Levels 3 to 5. Insofar as possible, proposals will involve SMEs and engage in international cooperation. The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU between EUR 5 and 7 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.

Expected impact:

- Contribution to the EU goals of increased sustainability of agriculture and the bio-based economy by developing new types of useful crops.
- New data for the assessment of innovative NBPT as tools for future plant breeding and their potential for a speedy uptake in general breeding practice
- Innovation in the way plant breeding technologies is presented to the public for an improved understanding of biotechnology and informed decision making Proposals should include a business case and exploitation strategy, as outlined in the Introduction to the LEIT part of this Work Programme.

Type of action:

Research and Innovation action


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