The current market for biopharmaceutical products is approximately $50 billion (€41 billion) annually. Industry analysts indicate that the market potential for monoclonal antibodies alone could exceed $20 billion by the year 2010.
Leverkusen-based Bayer said the deal, which was handled through its subsidiary Bayer Innovation GmbH, was in response to plant biotechnology's emergence as a key driver in the creation of novel products.
These products aim to meet the increasing demand for specialised, cost-efficient resources in the healthcare sector. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
In a build up to the deal, Bayer had strengthened its position in the PMP arena by entering into partnerships with organisations involved with PMPs and biopharmaceuticals to complement its existing presence in plant biotechnology and pharmaceutical production.
A spokesman for Bayer told In-PharmaTechnologist.com said: "Bayer has launched an initiative aimed at determining both the market opportunity and commercial feasibility of using plants as production systems for pharmaceutical products, including vaccines and therapeutic proteins."
"Over the past few years, Bayer and Icon have collaborated on five research agreements, the first of which was announced in January 2005, when Bayer CropScience and Icon entered into a collaborative agreement to evaluate expression levels and quality of selected pharmaceutical proteins produced in highly-specialised plant varieties," he added.
Bayer Innovation GmbH (BIG), headquartered in Düsseldorf, is a wholly owned subsidiary of Bayer AG. BIG evaluates and develops new fields of business for the Bayer Group that are in line with Bayer's core competencies of health care, nutrition and high-tech materials and complement its current key areas of innovation and business.
Biotechnology company, Icon Genetics are currently working on technology, which utilises the natural protein production processes in plants as a way of producing therapeutically active substances.