Top cigarette maker develops novel coronavirus vaccine, claims it is ready for human trials

NEW DELHI, May 16 (Agencies): One of the world’s top tobacco companies claims to have developed a vaccine for the novel coronavirus that, it says, is poised to be experimented on human beings. Yes, you read that right. London-based British American Tobacco said on Friday that its experimental vaccine for the novel coronavirus has shown promise in laboratory testing and is now ready to enter human trials, reported India Today.

British American Tobacco is the world’s No. 2 manufacturer of cigarettes, the leading cause of lung cancer across the world. The World Health Organisation has also warned that smoking cigarettes makes you more likely to develop severe disease if you’re infected by the novel coronavirus.

On Friday, British American Tobacco said its experimental vaccine “has been shown to produce a positive immune response” in pre-clinical testing. The vaccine is now poised to enter the first stage of human trials in the United States, the company said in a statement.

“We have committed funds to conduct these clinical trials, which could start as early as late June, pending the responses from relevant health bodies,” British American Tobacco said in its statement, adding that it is in touch with the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other government agencies across the world.

British American Tobacco’s experimental vaccine is based on an artificially built fragment of the novel coronavirus, called an “antigen”, which is inserted into tobacco plants for reproduction. “Once the plants were harvested, the antigen was then purified,” BAT said in a statement in April.

The idea is that this antigen, which is essentially a component of the novel coronavirus, would generate an immune response from the body when administered to human beings. And, British American Tobacco claims its antigen-vaccine is now ready for to be tried on humans.

In the latest update on its novel coronavirus vaccine efforts, British American Tobacco said on Friday it is “pleased to report the potential vaccine has been shown to produce a positive immune response” in pre-clinical testing and “is now poised to progress to the next stage which will be Phase 1 human clinical trials pending [US] FDA authorisation”.

Interestingly, British American Tobacco’s experimental shot for the novel coronavirus does not find a mention on the World Health Organisation’s global database of vaccine candidates for Covid-19, the disease caused by the new virus. The database, which was last updated on May 11, however is not meant to be exhaustive and currently lists 110 potential vaccines.

Research into a vaccine for the novel coronavirus is happening at an unprecedented pace with scientists skipping or clubbing several stages of development. The expert view is that a novel coronavirus vaccine is still around two years away.

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