Università degli Studi di Urbino Carlo Bo / Portale Web di Ateneo


Plants as bioreactors for the production of biopharmaceuticals
Bioreattori vegetali per la produzione di biofarmaci/ Plants as bioreactors for the production of biopharmaceuticals

A.Y. Credits
2021/2022 6
Lecturer Email Office hours for students
Andrea Pompa Tuesday at 10:30
Teaching in foreign languages
Course with optional materials in a foreign language English
This course is entirely taught in Italian. Study materials can be provided in the foreign language and the final exam can be taken in the foreign language.

Assigned to the Degree Course

Medical Biotechnologies for diagnostics and therapy (LM-9)
Date Time Classroom / Location
Date Time Classroom / Location

Learning Objectives

The course aims to lead the student to the knowledge of basic plant biology and physiology mechanisms and then introduce the knowledge inherent in the molecular biotechnology techniques underlying the production of biopharmaceuticals, with particular attention to the use of plant systems. The training course includes knowledge of genetic engineering systems developed in the field of plant biology and focuses on the use of plants as bioreactors. The positive characteristics and issues related to the use of plant systems will be addressed by highlighting the diversity of post-translational changes that proteins undergo in plant biological systems compared to animal ones. The course will also consider the development of plastid transformation systems and single-celled plant organisms (algae), for the production of bioactive molecules and recombinant proteins/antibodies of the latest generation useful in safeguarding human health.


● Introduction: from biology to plant biotechnology.

● Principles of plant physiology

● The latest generation drugs: biopharmaceuticals.

● Molecular biotechnology techniques in the plant world. Methods of genetic transformation of plants (transient and stable), Agrobacterium Tumefaciens, biolistic techniques (gene-gun), microinjection of DNA, plant viruses.

● The sorting of proteins within eukaryotic and prokaryotic cells, the classical secretion pathway and the unconventional pathways. ●

Synthesis of folding and key post-translational processes for the correct production of heterologous proteins in plant systems.

● Study and planning of the correct synthesis and accumulation site of biopharmaceuticals in the plant.

● Vegetable nanovesicles an alternative to traditional carriers in the delivery of pharmaceutical formulations.

● Use of unicellular algae for the production of bioactive molecules

● Examples of applied plant biotechnology, from theory to practice

• Laboratory exercises: analysis of the protein content in plant matrices by separation on SDS-PAGE

• Laboratory exercises: biomolecular techniques for the detection of GMOs in food of plant origin

Learning Achievements (Dublin Descriptors)

D1-Knowledge and understanding. Students will have to have critically and thoroughly assimilated the main issues of plant physiology and basic biology mechanisms and then introduce the knowledge inherent in the molecular biotechnology techniques underlying the production of biopharmaceuticals and bioactive molecules. D2-Ability to apply knowledge and understanding. Students should be able to identify cause-and-effect relationships between the introduction or manipulation of exogenous / endogenous genes and the production and accumulation of products of pharmaceutical / nutraceutical interest. They will have to have acquired knowledge on the main methodological (biochemical, biomolecular and biotechnological) and instrumental procedures used for biological research and their fields of application, as well as developed a scientific approach to bioethical problems (GMOs). D3-Autonomy of judgment. Students will be able to interpret and predict the physiological responses of plant cells to biotechnology, as well as develop knowledge to understand the correct folding, transport and accumulation sites of recombinant proteins. Demonstrate conscious autonomy of judgment in reference to the evaluation and interpretation of experimental laboratory data and ability to compare with existing data in the literature. D4-Communication skills. Students will be prepared to use specific technical language to communicate information and ideas related to the knowledge learned during the course. Acquisition of adequate skills and tools for communication with reference to data processing and presentation. D5-Ability to learn. Thanks to the theoretical skills acquired, students will be able to understand and critically discuss the salient aspects of biotechnology and plant molecular biology. Furthermore, thanks to the use of the available databases they will be able to deepen and update their knowledge. The ability to apply the acquired knowledge will be tested through: a) classroom discussion and problem solving and b) passing the exams.

Teaching Material

The teaching material prepared by the lecturer in addition to recommended textbooks (such as for instance slides, lecture notes, exercises, bibliography) and communications from the lecturer specific to the course can be found inside the Moodle platform › blended.uniurb.it

Teaching, Attendance, Course Books and Assessment


Lectures and in-depth seminars on topics agreed with the students.

Verification of learning through student presentations with PowerPoint program summarizing the topics covered.

Course books

Biopharmaceuticals in plants by Kathleen Laura Hefferon Taylor& Francis (2009)

Fisiologia Vegetale Applicata Lionetti e Bellicampi (2021)

Bioloogia cellulare & biotecnologie vegetali Cozzolino S. e vari (2011)

Plant Physiology and Development, Sixth Edition by Lincoln Taiz, Eduardo Zeiger, Ian M. Møller, and Angus Murphy, published by Sinauer Associates.


Oral interview. The exam consists of a series of three-four questions that require discussion of the proposed topic and connections with others in order to evaluate, in addition to the acquired knowledge and reasoning skills, also communication and problem-solving skills of a practical nature in accordance with what indicated by the Dublin descriptors

Disabilità e DSA

Le studentesse e gli studenti che hanno registrato la certificazione di disabilità o la certificazione di DSA presso l'Ufficio Inclusione e diritto allo studio, possono chiedere di utilizzare le mappe concettuali (per parole chiave) durante la prova di esame.

A tal fine, è necessario inviare le mappe, due settimane prima dell’appello di esame, alla o al docente del corso, che ne verificherà la coerenza con le indicazioni delle linee guida di ateneo e potrà chiederne la modifica.


The student can request to sit the final exam in English

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