If successful, between one and three million doses of the vaccine could be manufactured per week, beginning in June
In 2014, KBP made headlines as one of the few companies with an effective treatment for Ebola
Lucky Strike owner British American Tobacco (BAT) is working on a plant-based vaccine to coronavirus, with the potential to manufacture up to three million doses a week by June if successful.
The vaccine in development uses BAT’s proprietary, fast-growing tobacco plant technology, which the company said had several advantages over conventional vaccine production technology.
The tobacco giant’s US bio-tech subsidiary, Kentucky BioProcessing (KBP), is currently conducting pre-clinical testing for the potential vaccine.
If testing goes well, BAT added it was hopeful, “with the right partners and support from government agencies”, between one and three million doses of the vaccine could be manufactured per week, beginning in June.
Its next step is to bring its vaccine to clinical studies “as soon as possible”.
“We are engaged with the US Food and Drug Administration and are seeking guidance on next steps,” said Dr David O’Reilly, BAT director of scientific research. “We have also engaged with the UK’s Department for Health and Social Care, and BARDA in the US, to offer our support and access to our research with the aim of trying to expedite the development of a vaccine for Covid-19.”
The Lucky Strike, Dunhill, Kent and Pall Mall manufacturer added KBP remained a commercial operation, but any work around the Covid-19 vaccine project would be carried out on a not-for-profit basis.
BAT US subsidiary Reynolds American Inc acquired KBP in 2014 to help it develop its non-combustible, reduced-risk products, such as e-cigarettes, tobacco heating products and tobacco-free nicotine products.
In 2014, KBP made headlines as one of the few companies with an effective treatment for Ebola after it manufactured ZMapp with California-based company Mapp BioPharmaceuticals, in partnership with the US Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA).
“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,” O’Reilly said.
“We fully align with the United Nations plea for a whole-of-society approach to combat global problems.
“KBP has been exploring alternative uses for the tobacco plant for some time. One such alternative use is the development of plant-based vaccines. We are committed to contributing to the global effort to halt the spread of Covid-19 using this technology.”
KBP recently cloned a portion of Covid-19’s genetic sequence, which led to the development of a potential antigen – a substance which induces an immune response in the body and, in particular, the production of antibodies.
This antigen was then inserted into tobacco plants for reproduction and, once the plants were harvested, the antigen was purified and is now undergoing pre-clinical testing.