PlantForm, South Africa’s CSIR and BGM Pharmaceuticals announce research collaboration 

Research and licence agreement focuses on production of biosimilar trastuzumab for African markets 

Guelph, Ont., Canada and Pretoria, South Africa, July 17, 2018 — PlantForm Corporation of Canada and South Africa’s Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), in collaboration with BGM Pharmaceuticals, are pleased to announce a research and licence agreement for the production of biosimilar trastuzumab using PlantForm’s vivoXPRESS® manufacturing system. 

The agreement will allow the CSIR to produce a biosimilar monoclonal antibody (trastuzumab) using the tobacco plant-based vivoXPRESS® expression technology at laboratory scale. The CSIR will demonstrate the utility of PlantForm’s proprietary technology to produce a trastuzumab drug candidate with the long-term goal of manufacturing trastuzumab, and other possible drug candidates, in South Africa for sale in African markets. 

“This agreement represents a significant opportunity for PlantForm,” said Dr. Don Stewart, PlantForm’s President and CEO. “The South African pharmaceutical sector is the largest in the region, and by working with the CSIR and BGM Pharmaceuticals we continue to advance our global strategy for biosimilar drug development that will make life-saving medications more widely available at much lower cost.”

The vivoXPRESS® system uses fast-growing tobacco plants to produce a wide range of biologic (large molecule) drugs, including monoclonal antibodies and therapeutic proteins, at a fraction of the cost of manufacturing the same drugs using conventional methods. Previous research has shown that PlantForm’s plant-produced trastuzumab drug candidate is equally effective at inhibiting the growth of HER2-positive breast cancer cells as the commercial brand-name antibody Herceptin. 

“We’re pleased to be working with PlantForm and BGM Pharmaceuticals to further development of the vivoXPRESS® technology,” said Dr. Tsepo Tsekoa, who heads the CSIR’s biomanufacturing technology demonstration research group. “The CSIR is committed to utilizing and enhancing our capability in biologics production to assist South African industry with development and localization of cost-effective technology solutions for biopharmaceutical manufacture. This collaboration will strengthen this commitment and help us expand our research into using plant-based processes to develop biologics.” 

In the longer term, the collaboration will advance BGM Pharmaceuticals’ mission to develop new biopharmaceuticals and improve existing therapies for emerging African markets. 

“We’re very excited about the opportunity to bring PlantForm’s low-cost manufacturing platform to the South African market to help make life-saving biopharmaceuticals more affordable and more widely available throughout the region,” said Martin Magwaza, BGM’s President and CEO. 

About PlantForm Corporation (

PlantForm Corporation is a biopharmaceutical company focused on the rapid development and production of specialty antibody and protein drugs using the company’s proprietary vivoXPRESS® platform. The plant-based vivoXPRESS® system makes it easier, faster and less expensive to produce approved biologic drugs for novel indications and new markets. The company’s pipeline includes trastuzumab for a novel indication in nerve regeneration, a biosimilar version of Lucentis® and other niche indication drugs. Learn more. 

About the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research

The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) is a world-class African research and development organization established in 1945. The CSIR undertakes directed, multidisciplinary research and technological innovation that contributes to the improved quality of life of South Africans. The organization plays a key role in supporting government’s programmes through directed research that is aligned with the country’s priorities, the organization’s mandate and its science, engineering and technology competences. 

About BGM Pharmaceuticals (

BGM Pharmaceuticals is a South African company that has more than 30 years combined pharmaceutical experience and have successfully launched products in the respiratory, ENT, dermatological and GIT markets. BGM’s portfolio of products and healthcare technologies are carefully selected to meet the health-related needs of Healthcare Practitioners and Patients on the continent of Africa. BGM and its technology partners also develop a significant portfolio of Theranostics based on novel Radiopharmaceuticals aimed at the Global Cancer and Immunology market. 


For more information, please contact:
Don Stewart
President and CEO
+1 416-452-7242
Stacey Curry Gunn
Director of Communications
+1 519-827-1131
Martin S. Magwaza
President and CEO
BGM Pharma, South Africa
Tel. +27 72 564 0317
       Tsepo Tsekoa
       Research Group Leader, CSIR
       Tel:+27 12 841 3274

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