An experimental Covid-19 vaccine developed by cigarette maker British American Tobacco Plc is poised to begin testing in humans.
Pre-clinical tests of the vaccine showed a positive immune response, the London-based maker of Lucky Strike cigarettes said Friday in a statement. The first phase of human trials could begin as soon as late June if authorized by drug regulators, BAT said.
Drugmakers from around the world have jumped into the vaccine race, with more than 100 candidates in development in the U.S., Europe, China and other regions. BAT rival Philip Morris International Inc. is also testing an immunization based on a virus-like particle grown in a close relative of the tobacco plant.
BAT subsidiary Kentucky BioProcessing uses tobacco plants in making the experimental vaccine, which is derived from the genetic sequence of Sars-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid. According to BAT, the method generates the vaccine faster than conventional approaches, reducing the time required from several months to about six weeks.
Making a Covid vaccine using tobacco plants stands in stark contrast to the effects of other related products on health. Smoking cigarettes may raise the risk of severe Covid-19 symptoms, according to the World Health Organization. Tobacco itself kills more than 8 million people each year, most of them through direct use of products like cigarettes, the agency says.