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01 Apr 2020 | 09:21

BAT hails breakthrough with potential Covid-19 vaccine

(Sharecast News) - British American Tobacco said on Wednesday that it has made a "significant breakthrough" with its tobacco plant technology platform in the development of a potential vaccine for Covid-19. The company said pre-clinical testing is under way by its US bio-tech subsidiary, Kentucky BioProcessing (KBP). If testing goes well, BAT said it's hopeful that with the right partners and support from government agencies, between 1 and 3 million doses of the vaccine could be made per week, starting in June.

BAT said KBP's work around the Covid-19 vaccine project will be carried out on a not-for-profit basis.

BAT highlighted a number of advantages to tobacco plant technology over conventional vaccine production technology. It is potentially safer given that tobacco plants can't host pathogens which cause human disease, it said. It is also faster because the elements of the vaccine accumulate in tobacco plants much more quickly - six weeks in tobacco plants versus several months using conventional methods.

The vaccine formulation KBP is developing remains stable at room temperature, unlike conventional vaccines which often require refrigeration, BAT said, and it has the potential to deliver an effective immune response in a single dose.

Dr David O'Reilly, director of scientific research at BAT said: "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, to offer our support and access to our research with the aim of trying to expedite the development of a vaccine for Covid-19.

"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."

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