British American Tobacco developing coronavirus vaccine

British American Tobacco, a London-based cigarette and tobacco manufacturing company, announced on April 1st, 2020 that it is trying to make a coronavirus vaccine

British American Tobacco developing coronavirus vaccine

They are 
working on this project through Kentucky BioProcessing, an American tobacco company which is a subsidiary of British American Tobacco. The New York Post reports that the first batches of the vaccine, which will be made using proteins extracted from tobacco leaves, might be available by June.

According to British American Tobacco, Kentucky BioProcessing could manufacture between 1 million to 3 million doses of the vaccine by then. They hope to develop 3 million per week. If the clinical trials fail, the doses already developed would go to waste, but the company says they’re willing to take the risk to save time. The vaccine is currently undergoing pre-clinical testing on animals and will be developed on a not-for-profit basis.

However, British American Tobacco said that this would mean that they would need support from other manufacturers and the government. Kentucky BioProcessing is creating the vaccine by cloning the coronavirus genetic sequence in order to make antigens. Antigens are toxins or foreign substances that induce immune responses in the body, triggering the production of antibodies

They insert these antigens into tobacco plants to allow them to reproduce, then harvest them from the plants once ready. The antigens, in a purified form, are injected into the body to then fight the coronavirus. British American Tobacco Director of Scientific Research David O’Reilly said that they believe they “stand ready to work with governments and all stakeholders to help win the war against COVID-19”.

The company is reportedly in talks with British health authorities and the Food and Drug Administrators to start clinical studies soon. According to CNN, the World Health Organization has said that plant-derived vaccines are less likely to contain harmful contaminants compared to vaccines that are traditionally developed, Plant-based vaccines are also less expensive to make, which means they can be produced in “very high amounts”.

Kentucky BioProcessing also made the news in 2014 when they produced ZMapp, a treatment for Ebola, with Mapp BioPharmaceuticals. While ZMapp has yet to receive approval from the Food and Drug Administration, Kentucky BioProcessing received praise for developing it on a plant-based system. CNN reports that ZMapp was “abandoned in favor of more effective alternatives”.

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