Rahman Pattanathu, Teegene Biotech
Jamie Hardesty

Teesside biotechnology firm looks to turn roadside plants to anticancer drugs

Teesside company TeeGene Biotech has launched a research project to investigate whether roadside verges can provide crucial chemicals to be recycled for use in medical applications.

Focussing on roadside plants and greenery subjected to significant levels of air pollution from exhaust fumes, TeeGene is investigating the possibility that they may contain valuable chemicals, platinum group metals, which can be recycled for use in anticancer drugs and biomedical devices such as pacemakers.

Based at the Wilton Centre near Redcar, the firm stands as a spin-out venture from Teesside University and the University of York. A consortium of its scientists are currently undertaking the research.

Going forward, on successful completion of the project, the aim is to work in conjunction with the Highways Agency who will provide the plants collected by their gardening teams from roadsides throughout Yorkshire.

Johnson Matthey is the industrial partner in this project and will commercialise the technology with TeeGene Biotech.

The research project ‘Plants as Nanoparticle Producers’ is funded through a CBMNet (Crossing Biological Membranes network) Proof of Concept Grant. The CBMNet pools skills from academia and business to develop research projects with the potential to overcome major challenges in the industrial biotechnology and bioenergy arena.

Founder of the company Dr Pattanathu Rahman said: “This is an exciting project that utilises TeeGene’s expertise perfectly.

“The nano level platinum group metals that are at the heart of our research are rare materials that are used in many industrial applications, often in quantities too small to even be seen with a microscope.

“There is a growing demand for platinum to be used in medical applications just as there is increasing concern about the environmental impact of platinum deposits due to air pollution so this research is very timely.”

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