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Tobacco plant-based vaccine and other potential COVID-19 drugs in the making

Currently, more than 120 COVID-19 vaccines are under development across the world – as per the WHO.

Pre-clinical testing of a tobacco plant-based COVID-19 vaccine is underway. If testing goes well, the developer plans to begin its production in large scale in the next two months.

Written by Longjam Dineshwori |Updated : April 2, 2020 7:50 PM IST

A British cigarette company is reportedly using tobacco plants to develop coronavirus vaccine. The company believes that the vaccine in development would be able to combat the global COVID-19 pandemic. If testing goes well, the company plans to begin its production in large scale in the next two months.

British American Tobacco (BAT) is hoping that it could be able to manufacture between 1m and 3m doses of the vaccine per week, with support from government agencies and other partners.

The London-listed company claims that compared with conventional methods, tobacco plants offer the potential for faster and safer vaccine development. Tobacco plants cannot host pathogens which cause human disease, this makes it potentially safer than conventional vaccine technology the company noted.

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The company's US biotech subsidiary, Kentucky BioProcessing (KBP) is conducting the pre-clinical testing of the vaccine. BAT told media persons that it will work on the vaccine on a not-for-profit basis. KBP has previously worked on a treatment for Ebola.

Development in other treatments

As the COVID-19 curve continues to rise globally, scientists are in race against time to find a cure or vaccine for it. Many drug companies have come up with different potential drugs, a few of which are under clinical trials. Researchers are also studying some existing treatments for viral diseases to fight COVID-19. Let's take a look at some of the promising drugs


The first human trail of this experimental COVID-19 vaccine began in the US last month. A few healthy adults received the vaccine shots at the Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute in Seattle.

Biotechnology company Moderna had developed the vaccine, mRNA-1273, in collaboration with the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The researchers hope that the vaccine will stimulate the immune system to make antibodies that can stop the coronavirus from replicating and prevent development of COVID-19.

The phase 1 study will test three different doses of the mRNA-1273 vaccine. The initial trial will include 45 healthy adults ages 18 to 55. Each participant will receive two shots, 28 days apart. The study participants will be followed for 12 months after the second vaccination. They will be monitored to evaluate both the safety and immunogenicity of the vaccine. Once the vaccine is found to be safe, the researchers will determine how well it works in later studies.

Oral coronavirus vaccine

Israel's state-funded Migal Galilee Research Institute recently announced that it has developed an oral vaccine for coronavirus. The research team claimed that the new oral vaccine could turn COVID-19 into a very mild cold. Clinical testing of the vaccine is expected soon.

For the past four years, the researchers have been working to develop the vaccine that could be customized for various viruses. They have now adapted their work to focus on the novel coronavirus. The vaccine will consist of a specially produced protein.

Anti-malaria drugs

Researchers are also testing the efficacy of malaria drugs in helping treat patients infected with COVID-19. Trials of malaria pills chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine - are underway in many countries, including China, France and the United States. There is still no strong evidence to show that they are effective. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved hydroxychloroquine for therapeutic use among coronavirus patients. Following which some U.S. clinicians have started using the drug at different doses to treat COVID-19 patients.

Anti-HIV Drugs

Doctors in many countries are also using a combination of two anti-HIV drugs to treat COVID-19 patients. The Drug Controller General of India approved restricted application of lopinavir and ritonavir for treating COVID-19 patients. The combination drug was first administered to an elderly Italian couple undergoing treatment at a Jaipur hospital for Covid-19. However, the effectiveness of this therapy is not clear yet


In the US, a biotech firm is conducting clinical trial of the antiviral medicine remdesivir on Covid-19 patients. Expecting a successful result, the company has already increased production of the drug to meet the potential demand. Remdesivir is a drug to treat Ebola. Researchers are using it to treat a COVID patient in the U.S.

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