University of Kentucky College of Agriculture

Kentucky Tobacco Research and Development Center

KTRDC scientific discoveries are important to the biotechnology community, including plant-made pharmaceuticals.

Go to KTRDC welcome page

Go to KTRDC tobacco biotechnology

Go to KTRDC research and services.

Go to KTRDC intellectual property.

Go to KTRDC grants.

Go to KTRDC scientists, staff and board.

Go to KTRDC news.

Go to biotechnogy, academic, and governments links.

Plant biotechnology is a revolutionary new field that harnesses to practical advantage the knowledge gained over more than half a century of basic plant research. Agriculture is already realizing huge benefits from improved crops developed through biotechnology, which show remarkable resistance to insect damage, markedly reduced dependence on herbicides, etc. Field research is an integral part of biotechnology development.
A particularly exciting branch of this fast-moving field is the engineering of plants to produce new biological substances, enabling agricultural crops to be used as "production systems" to supply valuable materials such as medical drugs, industrial enzymes, specialty plastics and novel food ingredients. These new applications for plants, including tobacco, have the potential to generate entirely new markets for farmers and growers. Such new opportunities are constantly in demand as traditional tobacco agriculture declines and the family farm seeks new agricultural opportunities.

Although the basic technology required to ‘engineer’ tobacco and other plants to produce new substances has been available for more than ten years, agricultural biotechnology initially concentrated on improvements to the performance and management of such crops as cotton, soybeans, corn, etc. However, the exciting prospect of new uses for tobacco and other plants is now attracting more attention, driven especially by the critical demand for protein pharmaceuticals. Recent progress in medical biotechnology has resulted in the ongoing development of literally hundreds of new protein-based medical drugs, the production of which will greatly exceed the capacity of current protein-manufacturing capacity. Plants such as tobacco have the potential to impact this manufacturing crisis, and the resulting new agricultural biotechnology sector is referred to as ‘plant-made pharmaceuticals’, or PMP.

The primary goal of KTRDC research is to facilitate and encourage the use of tobacco in Kentucky as a production system for commercially useful proteins, and for PMP applications. The Center is also developing new technologies to expand the discovery and use of non-protein substances which are made naturally by tobacco and other plants, collectively referred to as ‘plant natural products.' Many plant natural products are familiar as flavors and fragrances, medicinals, and natural insecticides. The relatively new science of plant genomics offers the potential to enhance their production and diversity in the plant. Plants producing high yields of useful new natural products will also represent new crop and market opportunities for growers.

For additional information on new products from plants, visit For information on plant-made pharmaceuticals, go to

Copyright (c) 2002

Contact Orlando Chambers with any
questions or comments.
Updated 8/18/04.
UK Policy Warning.