Cigarette companies join race for COVID-19 vaccine | The World
Big Tobacco joins race to develop COVID-19 vaccine
Cigarette makers may seem "strange" allies in the creation of life-saving vaccines, but Philip Morris International and British American Tobacco are trying to help develop protection against coronavirus with their alma mater – tobacco leaf.
Tobacco industry giants say tobacco plants have the potential for faster, safer drug development.
British American Tobacco (BAT) said Wednesday that it is conducting preclinical trials of a plant-based vaccine through its US-based subsidiary Kentucky BioProcessing (KBP). The company already made headlines in 2014 when it announced the development of the Ebola drug, ZMapp, in partnership with Mapp BioPharmaceuticals. The drug has not yet received approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Philip Morris International (PMI) said its part-owned Canadian division Medicago plans to begin human trials of a potential vaccine this summer..
The involvement of tobacco companies in the fight against Covid-19 may seem counterintuitive to some, as the World Health Organization (WHO) said smoking can increase the risk of more serious complications from the disease..
It sounds surprising that companies have devoted their enormous resources, usually focused on creating products that pose a threat to the health of millions of consumers around the world, to fight the global pandemic..
Recently, part of the Covid-19 genetic sequence was cloned at Kentucky BioProcessing, resulting in an antibody-inducing substance. The antigen was then introduced into the tobacco plants for propagation. According to BAT, the method generates a vaccine faster than conventional methods, reducing the time required from a few months to six weeks..
«Tobacco factories offer the potential for faster, safer vaccine development than traditional methods», – the company said.
«If testing is successful, BAT hopes that with the right partners and government support, it will be able to produce 1 to 3 million doses of vaccine per week starting in June.», – reported in the company.
BAT’s American division Reynolds American acquired Kentucky BioProcessing in 2014 with plans to use its tobacco extraction technology to develop an alternative to cigarettes. The company is currently exploring partnerships with government agencies to introduce an experimental vaccine into clinical trials. BAT said that while the unit is a commercial enterprise, its work on the development of a vaccine against Covid-19 will be carried out on a non-profit basis..
«KBP has been exploring alternative uses for the tobacco plant for some time now. One such alternative application is the development of plant-based vaccines».
We believe we have made a significant breakthrough using our tobacco plant technology and stand ready to work with governments and all stakeholders to help win the war against COVID-19», – said David O&# 39; Reilly (David O’Reilly, director of research at the company.
Philip Morris’ Medicago uses a virus-like particle grown from a close relative of the tobacco plant. Plant-based vaccines mimic viruses and allow the body’s immune system to recognize them and create an immune response without being able to infect or multiply.
Researchers in China quickly shared the virus’s genetic sequence with other scientists around the world, giving them the opportunity to begin their search for a cure and vaccine. They test everything from drugs first developed to treat HIV and influenza, to plasma containing antibodies in recovered patients..