British American Tobacco’s US bio-tech subsidiary, Kentucky BioProcessing (KBP), is 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 entire vaccine development project will be of a non-profit nature.
The vaccine in development uses BAT’s proprietary, fast-growing tobacco plant technology which has shown numerous advantages over conventional vaccine development technology, since it does not carry pathogens that can potentially cause a human disease. In addition, the fact that the contents of the vaccine accumulate significantly faster in tobacco seedlings has made the development even faster. At the same time, unlike traditional vaccines that often require cooling, the formula developed by BAT remains stable at room temperature.
BAT acquired KBP in 2014 with the aim of utilizing its unique tobacco extraction technologies to develop a new category of products that, unlike cigarettes, is deprived of the tobacco combustion process. In addition, KBP was one of the few companies to develop effective Ebola treatment that same year.
“We are engaged with the US Food and Drug Administration and are seeking guidance on next steps. We have also engaged with the UK’s Department for Health and Social Care, and BARDA in the US. We want to offer our support and access to our research with the aim of trying to expedite the development of a vaccine for Covid-19, since it is a challenging and complex process. 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. KBP has been exploring alternative uses of 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”, said Dr David O’Reilly, Director of Scientific Research, BAT.