ISLAMABAD: With the World Health Organization declaring COVID-19 a pandemic, all eyes have turned to the prospect of a vaccine, because only a vaccine can prevent people from getting sick.
British American Tobacco’s (BAT) US bio-tech subsidiary, Kentucky Bio Processing (KBP), is also developing a potential vaccine for COVID-19 and 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 vaccine in development uses BAT’s proprietary, fast-growing tobacco plant technology which has several advantages over conventional vaccine production technology. It is potentially safer given that tobacco plants can’t host pathogens which cause human disease. It is faster because the elements of the vaccine accumulate in tobacco plants much more quickly. The vaccine formulation KBP is developing remains stable at room temperature, unlike conventional vaccines which often require refrigeration. It has the potential to deliver an effective immune response in a single dose.
Dr David O’Reilly, Director of Scientific Research, BAT said: that While KBP remains a commercial operation, the intention is that its work around the COVID-19 vaccine project will be carried out on a not for profit basis. He further told that 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. We fully align with the United Nations plea, for a whole-of-society approach to combat global problems.
In 2014, KBP made headlines as one of the few companies with an effective treatment for Ebola, having manufactured ZMapp™ with California-based Company MappBio Pharmaceuticals in partnership with the U.S. Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA).
BAT is now exploring partnerships with government agencies to bring its COVID-19 vaccine to clinical studies as soon as possible.