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Techno-economic analysis of a plant-based platform for manufacturing antimicrobial proteins for food safety.

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Continuous reports of foodborne illnesses worldwide and the prevalence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria mandate novel interventions to assure the safety of our food. Treatment of a variety of foods with bacteriophage-derived lysins and bacteriocin-class antimicrobial proteins has been shown to protect against high-risk pathogens at multiple intervention points along the food supply chain. The most significant barrier to the adoption of antimicrobial proteins as a food safety intervention by the food industry is the high production cost using current fermentation-based approaches. Recently, plants have been shown to produce antimicrobial proteins with accumulation as high as 3 g/kg fresh weight and with demonstrated activity against major foodborne pathogens. To investigate potential economic advantages and scalability of this novel platform, we evaluated a highly efficient transgenic plant-based production process. A detailed process simulation model was developed to help identify economic "hot spots" for research and development focus including process operating parameters, unit operations, consumables, and/or raw materials that have the most significant impact on production costs. Our analyses indicate that the unit production cost of antimicrobial proteins in plants at commercial scale for three scenarios is $3.00-6.88/g, which can support a competitive selling price to traditional food safety treatments.

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