British American Tobacco working on potential coronavirus vaccine

Global cigarette giant British American Tobacco (BAT), which manufactures Intore and Dunhill has said it is working on a potential vaccine for new coronavirus using tobacco plants.

BAT is leveraging on its existing resources including its tobacco technology plant which essentially produces health-threatening cigarettes across the world to fight the pandemic.

 

The company, which arguably leads the tobacco market share in Rwanda has said tobacco plants offer the potential for faster and safer vaccine development compared to conventional methods

 

Tobacco plants are potentially safer given that they can’t host pathogens which cause human disease, according to the firm.

 

It also said it is faster because the elements of the vaccine accumulate in tobacco plants much more quickly – 6 weeks in tobacco plants versus several months using conventional methods.

The company said its US biotechnology subsidiary, Kentucky BioProcessing (KBP), which is developing the vaccine for COVID-19 is now in pre-clinical testing.

“If testing goes well, BAT is hopeful that, with the right partners and support from government agencies, between 1 and 3 million doses of the vaccine could be manufactured per week, beginning in June,” the company said Wednesday.

BAT’s US subsidiary, Reynolds American Inc, acquired KBP in 2014, with the aim of using some of its unique tobacco extraction technology to aid further development of its new category non-combustible products.

In 2014, KBP made headlines as one of the few companies with an effective treatment for Ebola.

Dr David O’Reilly, the Director of Scientific Research at BAT said they are engaged with the US Food and Drug Administration and are seeking guidance on the next steps.

“Vaccine development is challenging and complex work, but we believe we have made a significant break-through with our tobacco plant technology platform and stand ready to work with Governments and all stakeholders to help win the war against COVID-19,” he noted.

KBP cloned a portion of COVID-19’s genetic sequence which led to the development of a potential antigen - a substance that induces an immune response in the body and in particular, the production of antibodies.

The antigen was then inserted into tobacco plants for reproduction and, once the plants were harvested, the antigen was then purified, and is now undergoing pre-clinical testing.

editor@newtimesrwanda.com

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