Development began in 2020 and is now ready for the next round of human trials. If they succeed, they will have managed to make a plant-based vaccine that is easy to make worldwide. The tobacco plants can be grown almost all over the world, and it costs little to produce the plants.
Researchers will use the leaves on the Australian tobacco variety. This is because it has a lower level of tobacco than what is used in, for example, cigarettes.
Ready in a month
Thai researchers say that the plants grow very fast. Within a month it can be transformed from a seed into a vaccine.
“It will only take ten days for us to produce a prototype and no more than three weeks to test whether that prototype works or not,” Baiya Phytopharm CEO Dr Suthira Taychakhoonavud told Sky News.
He tells Sky News that they are working on a vaccine that works against omicron.
– We have the prototype and are testing it right now, says the director.
To make the vaccine work by using tobacco plants, researchers must use the leaves of the plant as a host to produce proteins that mimic the coronavirus.
The leaves are then blended together, and the protein is then extracted. Thus, antibodies are ready to fight the coronavirus.
The earliest vaccine to be approved for use is late in 2022.
Secures the future
There are already a number of vaccines available and in use already.
But now researchers want to develop another one, to ensure future health security.
Taychakhoonavud tells Sky News that there will be future diseases for which we must have vaccines available when the time comes.
– COVID-19 will not be the last, says Taychakhoonavud.
For Taychakhoonavud, it is an advantage to use the tobacco plants because it is cheap to produce, so that even low-income countries can develop vaccines.
First in Asia
The plant that produces the tobacco plants is the first of its kind in Asia to produce tobacco-based vaccines intended for human use.
If successful, they will be able to produce as many as 60 million doses a year.
These are not just plants that need to be vaccinated, explains Taychakhoonavud. If they succeed, the technology required to operate the plant is very versatile.
– We can use it to produce other medicines. We can use it to produce medicines for cancer, medicines for rabies and antidotes, says Taychakhoonavud.
He explains that they will also be able to develop medicines for tropical diseases, which other multinational pharmaceutical companies are not interested in making.