News | November 14, 2023

Plantform And Swiftpharma Target Blockbuster Cancer Drug With New Contract Manufacturing Agreement For Plant-Made Biosimilars

Innovative leaders in plant-based protein drug development poised to challenge pharma giants with biosimilar pembrolizumab and other products coming off-patent

Canadian biopharmaceutical company PlantForm Corporation and Belgium-based SwiftPharma have signed a contract manufacturing agreement that will see SwiftPharma produce antibodies and proteins for PlantForm’s product pipeline.

In particular, the agreement gives PlantForm non-exclusive access to SwiftPharma's manufacturing expertise to produce biosimilar pembrolizumab using PlantForm’s proprietary systems and materials.

Pembrolizumab is an immunotherapy drug widely used to treat melanoma and several other types of cancer including non-small cell lung cancer. The brand-name version — Keytruda by Merck — has annual global sales of nearly US$21B and will lose patent protection in the European Union, Canada and Brazil in 2028.

“The loss of patent exclusivity for Keytruda is a blockbuster opportunity for the biosimilars sector," said Dr. Don Stewart, PlantForm’s President and CEO. "This agreement will enable PlantForm to bring plant-made pembrolizumab to global markets that are hungry for a lower-cost alternative.”

In 2021, PlantForm entered into a collaborative research and development agreement with Bio-Manguinhos of Brazil to develop biosimilar pembrolizumab for the Brazilian market. Stewart said all preliminary data makes a strong validation case for plant-based pembrolizumab made by PlantForm’s vivoXPRESS manufacturing platform.

With this agreement, SwiftPharma will help PlantForm and Bio-Manguinhos advance development of the product by providing access to a plant technology-based GMP manufacturing facility to produce the drug initially for pre-clinical and clinical studies, and in the longer term for commercial production and sales.

PlantForm's strategy is to partner with regional and global pharmaceutical companies and others for sales and distribution to bring these drugs to market worldwide.

“We’re proud to take this next big step forward with PlantForm on our journey to bring low-cost, life-saving medications to market using innovative plant-based manufacturing systems,” Jeroen Hofenk, SwiftPharma’s founder and Chief Science Officer. "Pembrolizumab is an important drug for fighting cancer and we're working hard to make it more accessible to patients everywhere."

About SwiftPharma
SwiftPharma is a Belgium-based privately held biotechnology company dedicated to developing next generation, animal-free, and affordable recombinant proteins by transforming plants into mini bioreactors. The company is on a mission to bring a paradigm shift to multiple industries by serving as a bridge between high unmet industry needs and the significant advances being made in sustainable biomanufacturing. For more information, visit

About PlantForm Corporation
PlantForm Corporation is a biopharmaceutical company focused on the low-cost production of high-value antibody and protein drugs and vaccines using the proprietary vivoXPRESS plant-based manufacturing platform. The vivoXPRESS plant expression system produces biologic drugs at a significantly reduced cost compared to standard mammalian cell systems. The platform is fast (drug production in as little as six weeks), versatile and easily scalable. PlantForm’s pipeline features an innovative antidote to ricin exposure, and biosimilar versions of the brand name biologic drugs Lucentis and Keytruda. The company aims to partner with regional and global pharmaceutical companies for sales and distribution worldwide. For more information, visit

Source: PlantForm