A Covid-19 Coronavirus Vaccine Has Been Created From A Tobacco Plant – And Scientists Say It Boosts Antibodies Ten-Fold.
A Covid-19 Coronavirus Vaccine Has Been Created From A Tobacco Plant – And Scientists Say It Boosts Antibodies Ten-Fold. Clinical trials are now being launched across the world, including the UK, after initial successful results. Scientists say it could combat the global shortage of vaccines. The therapy is unique as it is derived from Nicotiana benthamiana which grows in Australia. It contains nicotine and is used by indigenous people as a stimulant. Now the shrub has been genetically engineered to fight the coronavirus. It opens the door to mass production of the vaccine on an industrial scale.
It produces a virus like particle (VLP) that mimics the potentially lethal spike protein that hooks onto cells. The outer structures is the same – making it easily recognised by the immune system. But it is harmless as there is no genetic material for it to reproduce and spread inside the body. The 180 Canadian participants, aged 18 to 55, received two doses of the vaccine, named CoVLP, three weeks apart. After six weeks, they produced neutralising antibodies up to ten times higher than those seen in recovering patients.
It worked best when combined with a chemical cocktail used in routine flu drugs, known as AS03. Corresponding author Dr Brian Ward, of biopharmaceutical company Medicago, Quebec City, said: “The plant-derived candidate vaccine was well tolerated and elicited an immune response.” It cannot cause an infection but still teaches the body how to fight it – leading to immunity.
Dr Ward said: “Several Covid vaccines are being deployed, but the global need greatly exceeds the supply, and different formulations might be required for specific populations.” All formulations were well tolerated, with side effects short lived and mild to moderate. Dr Ward said more than 130 million people have been infected with Covid – and there have been over 2.8 million deaths. He went on: “Although considerable progress has been made in caring for patients, current treatment options remain relatively limited.
“No single vaccine can be produced in sufficient quantities to address the global need fast enough, and different formulations may be required for varied populations and environments.” Dr Ward added: “One such formulation is CoVLP, a virus-like-particle candidate vaccine that incorporates the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, produced in the plant, Nicotiana benthamiana.”
The original volunteers are being followed for 12 months. A two-dose regime of CoVLP with AS03 has entered into a larger phase 2 and studies in Canada, the UK, Brazil and the USA. Similar projects are also being planned for other countries in Europe and Latin America – where cases are increasing. Dr Bruce Clark, president and CEO of Medicago, said: “Creating a sufficient supply of Covid-19 vaccines within the next year is a challenge which will require multiple approaches, with different technologies.
“Our proven plant-based technology is capable of contributing to the collective solution to this public health emergency.” Producing VLP vaccines in plants is a complex process, but takes just six to eight weeks – much quicker than the six months in a chicken egg. It also eliminates ethical concerns surrounding reliance on animal products. The scientists genetically engineered a special plant-infiltrating bacterium called Agrobacterium to turn the nicotine plants into a miniature VLP ‘factories.’
This news was originally published at Hull Daily Mail.