Background: Plant biofactories are biotechnological platforms based on plant cell and organ
cultures used for the production of pharmaceuticals and biopharmaceuticals, although to date only a few of
these systems have successfully been implemented at an industrial level. Metabolic engineering is possibly
the most straightforward strategy to boost pharmaceutical production in plant biofactories, but social opposition
to the use of GMOs means empirical approaches are still being used.
Plant secondary metabolism involves thousands of different enzymes, some of which catalyze specific
reactions, giving one product from a particular substrate, whereas others can yield multiple products from
the same substrate. This trait opens plant cell biofactories to new applications, in which the natural metabolic
machinery of plants can be harnessed for the bioconversion of phytochemicals or even the production
of new bioactive compounds. Synthetic biological pipelines involving the bioconversion of natural
substrates into products with a high market value may be established by the heterologous expression of
target metabolic genes in model plants.
Objective: To summarize the state of the art of plant biofactories and their applications for the pipeline
production of cosme-, pharma- and biopharmaceuticals.
Results: In order to demonstrate the great potential of plant biofactories for multiple applications in the
biotechnological production of pharmaceuticals and biopharmaceuticals, this review broadly covers the
following: plant biofactories based on cell and hairy root cultures; secondary metabolite production;
biotransformation reactions; metabolic engineering tools applied in plant biofactories; and biopharmaceutical