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Project duration: 1 November 2017 - 31 October 2021
Funded by: European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme

Project summary

Pharma-Factory is a 4-year interdisciplinary project involving 9 academic partners and 5 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) across Europe. The project aims to explore how Plant Molecular Farming (PMF) can manufacture products for medical and veterinary use, using plant biotechnology.

UAL’s expertise in social design and service design provides creative thinking solutions to approach and practice, overseeing communication and infrastructure planning as well as ensuring that complex social issues are considered in a way that delivers social change.

Advances in Genetically Modified (GM) technology in Europe have struggled to gain traction due to concerns surrounding the ethical, environmental and safety issues of Genetically Modified food production, that arose over two decades ago. The public’s reluctance towards GM foods has influenced EU regulations and restrictions, making it very difficult to develop any GM technologies that could produce commercially viable products. Such products have the potential to generate high-value pharmaceuticals that could be beneficial to many. Pharma-Factory strives to make plant-based pharmaceuticals a reality.

Project aims

The central aim of the project is for SMEs to explore the development of commercially viable plant-based products through Plant Molecular Farming (PMF), for the manufacture of high value products for medical and veterinary use.

Plant Molecular Farming is a new branch of plant biotechnology, where plants are engineered to produce recombinant pharmaceutical and industrial proteins in large quantities. 6 molecular farming plants will be developed, including whole plants, algae, hairy roots and plant cell culture; by designing and developing new tools to increase the competitiveness, utility and versatility of each product.

Simultaneously, the project aims to generate a comprehensive programme of novel and creative public engagement activities in order to better understand the resistances and increase the acceptance of these promising products.


A range of Plant Molecular products will be explored through this research, including vaccines, antibodies and other treatments for humans and fish. Pharma-Factory provides a unique opportunity to improve public involvement with plant biotechnology at European wide level. By combining a diverse range of stakeholders and complex technology this project will tackle the opposition to GM in Europe.

Public acceptance is an issue for the long-term development of Pharma-Factory projects. The project strives to provide policy makers with evidence arising from the project that will help to shape future policies and to decide the specific areas that will require special public support.

The project’s public engagement activities will take place in workshops, which will demonstrate the potential value of these technologies to stakeholders. Such workshops help to identify engagement at the next stage and areas where new technology might be beneficial to user groups and organisations. They also provide the co-designed ‘raw materials’ for creating communication tools that allow people to envision a future, in which PMF medications, diagnostics and lab kits exist as valuable assets.

The research outputs will deliver innovative tools and methodologies that will have the potential to be translatable across the Plant Molecular farming sector. The research will provide evidence for benefits of the active engagement of the community in the Plant Molecular Farming field, with the opportunity to present the work at 3 exhibitions across the EU at the end of the project.


  • Pioneering plant technology unveiled at the London Design Festival, 18 September 2018
  • Commercial partner workshops, January -February 2019
  • Pharmacist workshop, February 2020

Project team


Related links

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