British American Tobacco working on coronavirus vaccine using tobacco leaves

03 Avril, 2020, 23:25 | Auteur: Therese Cote
  • The race to find a coronavirus vaccine is essential

According to the report, BAT has already started pre-clinical testing on animals, of a plant-based vaccine via U.S. biotech subsidiary Kentucky BioProcessing.

BAT has turned the vast resources usually focused on creating products that pose health risks to millions of smokers worldwide to battling the global pandemic.

British American Tobacco said it had cloned a portion of the virus's genetic sequence and developed a potential Covid-19 antigen - a protein that induces the production of antibodies and enables the body's immune system to prevent infection.

BAT said that the product may be "potentially safer" as tobacco plants can not host pathogens that cause disease in human, adding that the elements of the vaccine will accumulate in tobacco plants "much more quickly" at six weeks in the plants as opposed to several months using conventional methods.

The company said they will develop the coronavirus vaccine on a not-for-profit bases.

Philip Morris's Medicago employs a virus-like particle grown in a close relative of the tobacco plant, the report said.

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However, this is not the first time BAT and KBP have publicised an effort to develop vaccines for epidemic-level illnesses, having previously made headlines in 2014 for developing Mapp, a vaccine to help combat Ebola.

The vaccine formulation KBP is developing remains stable at room temperature, unlike conventional vaccines, which often require refrigeration.

BAT's USA subsidiary RAI, Winston-Salem, N.C., acquired KBP in 2014, with the aim of using some of its tobacco-extraction technology to aid in further development of its new noncombustible products.

The Kentucky BioProcessing unit could produce up to 3 million doses per week starting June.

Dr David O'Reilly, Director of Scientific Research, BAT said:"We are engaged with the US Food and Drug Administration and are seeking guidance on next steps". The synthesized antigen was inserted into tobacco plants for reproduction. One such alternative use is the development of plant-based vaccines. While KBP is a commercial operation, the vaccine will be a non-profit endeavour. According to BAT, this generates the vaccine faster than conventional methods, reducing the time required from several months to about six weeks.

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