Tobacco Plants Contribute Key Ingredient For COVID-19 Vaccine

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Tobacco plants are being used in the development of COVID-19 vaccines. One is already being tested in humans.

Rehman Asad/Barcroft Media via Getty Images


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Rehman Asad/Barcroft Media via Getty Images


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«To all intents and purposes, it looks like a virus,» says Bruce Clark, CEO of Medicago, a Canadian biotech company that’s also using tobacco plants to make a vaccine.

«So when it presents to the body, it looks and generates a response like a virus, but it has no genetic material inside,» so it can’t actually infect someone, Clark says.

Medicago has already begun testing its vaccine candidate in humans. Results from the initial studies are expected soon.

Kentucky Bioprocessing’s COVID-19 vaccine won’t be ready for initial testing in humans for several weeks yet. Even if the vaccine isn’t one of the first to be approved, it may have advantages over some of the other vaccines. For example, it can be stored at normal refrigeration temperatures, and may even be stable at room temperature, making it easier to distribute.

Besides, says Haydon, «There will be other public health challenges. And the more that we can learn as a company, the better prepared we are for what comes next.»

Plant biologist Kathleen Hefferon agrees plants could play an important role in the future of medicine.

«There are lots of examples of a plant made versions of therapeutic proteins, and so this is just another place where I think plants can make their mark.»

Out of the greenhouse, and into the clinic.

  • Tobacco Plant
  • COVID-19 vaccine
  • proteins
  • plants
  • virus
  • Vaccines

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