A tobacco firm claims it could be the world’s unlikely saviour when it comes to the coronavirus pandemic.
British American Tobacco (BAT), which makes Lucky Strike and Benson & Hedges, says it is developing a vaccine for Covid-19, and that it is currently in in pre-clinical testing.
If testing goes well, the company says it could make between 1 and 3 million vaccines a week by June this year if it gets ‘the right partners and support from government agencies’.
The firm said the vaccine is being developed by its US-based business Kentucky BioProcessing using tobacco plant technology.
They said they cloned part of the virus’s genetic sequence, which led to the development of a potential antigen.
An antigen is a substance which prompts an immune response in the body, and the production of antibodies.
The company said this 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.
They said the vaccine project will be carried out on a not for profit basis.
Dr David O’Reilly, director of scientific research at BAT, said: ‘Vaccine development is challenging and complex work, but we believe we have made a significant breakthrough with our tobacco plant technology platform and stand ready to work with governments and all stakeholders to help win the war against Covid-19.
‘We fully align with the United Nations plea, for a whole-of-society approach to combat global problems.
‘KBP (Kentucky BioProcessing) has been exploring alternative uses of the tobacco plant for some time.
‘One such alternative use is the development of plant-based vaccines.’
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