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British American Tobacco creating coronavirus vaccine

Published on 02/04/20 at 10:29am
Photo by sarangib

British American Tobacco has said it is developing a COVID-19 vaccine from tobacco plants.

The owner of famous cigarette brands, such as Lucky Strike, Dunhill, Rothmans and Benson & Hedges, the company is using its biotech subsidiary Kentucky BioProcessing to work on developing a vaccine.

It released a statement saying that: “If testing goes well, BAT is hopeful that, with the right partners and support from government agencies, between 1m and 3m doses of the vaccine could be manufactured per week, beginning in June. Tobacco plants offer the potential for faster and safer vaccine development compared with conventional methods.”

The company has said that it has cloned a portion of COVID-19’s genetic sequence and developed an antigen. This was then placed into tobacco plants for reproduction and purified once the plant was harvested. It has now moved to pre-clinical testing and will continuing development on a not-for-profit basis. It also says it has engaged with the FDA and UK’s Department for Health and Social Care in helping with their development of a vaccine.

In 2014, Kentucky BioProcessing worked on a treatment for Ebola. They believe their work is safer than conventional vaccine testing because tobacco plants cannot host pathogens that cause human diseases.

Dr David O’Reilly, the Director of Scientific Research at British American Tobacco, commented on the vaccine and said: “Vaccine development is challenging and complex work but we believe we have made a significant breakthrough with our tobacco plant technology platform, and we stand ready to work with governments and all stakeholders to help win the war against Covid-19.

“KBP has been exploring alternative uses of the tobacco plant for some time. One such alternative use is the development of plant-based vaccines.”

Conor Kavanagh

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