Growing drugs inside plants -- instead of making them in factories -- could soon be big business, with the U.S. market alone potentially worth $2.2 billion by 2011, according to a recently released report.

A number of companies are currently looking at ways to make complex drugs, such as antibodies and vaccines, inside genetically modified corn and other farm crops.

The first commercially available drugs made this way could be available around 2006, according to consultancy firm Frost & Sullivan.

"There is currently a shortfall in biopharmaceutical manufacturing facilities, which leaves great market potential for biopharmaceuticals produced from plants," Frost & Sullivan analyst Phil Webster said.

A number of start-up biotechnology companies are working in the area and some large multinational firms, such as Switzerland's Syngenta AG and U.S.-based Dow Chemical Co., have also invested in the idea.

But so-called biopharming faces significant challenges -- not least overcoming public fears that creating new crops engineered to make medicines could jeopardise the food supply. The nascent biopharming business suffered a setback in 2002 when plants from a test crop grown by U.S. firm ProdiGene Inc. contaminated a soybean crop grown for food the following year.

Source: Yahoo News