A Canadian Company Is Trying Out a Flu Vaccine Derived From Tobacco

Last year in September before the beginning of one of the most severe flu season in history, Medicago, a biotech Company from Canada initiated phase 3 of the flu vaccine clinical trial. This vaccine was primarily manufactured from tobacco plants, and the Canadian company is looking prove that its unique method of production will reduce the time it takes to make vaccines—and that it will also be more efficient.

Medicago has been relentless in its efforts to revolutionize the flu vaccine but has been facing challenges due to the wily nature of the virus. The major issue with flu is how quick it mutates. This characteristic allows it to transform into other subtypes of the same virus thus becoming resistant to the vaccine. Moreover, the company wishes to do away with the slow method of growing flu vaccines in eggs which according to studies increase the tendency of the virus used in the production process to mutate thus distancing it from the circulating strains.

Vaccine experts at Medicago are determined that their technology will produce a vaccine that can spot and destroy circulating viruses (even when they undergo mutation). The scientists are using “virus-like particles” that are similar in structure to the virus (but doesn’t have the complete genetic code) rather than egg-based systems. They believe these particles gather together special resistant cells that have the ability to eliminate cells that have been infected by flu regardless of the subtype it has mutated into.

But Medicago also wants to be allowed the freedom to modify (by changing the components) the vaccine in cases where a new potentially riskier strain emerges in the midst of a flu season. So they spent years of study and discovered Nicotiana benthamiana, a set of tobacco species that can naturally form proteins at very high speed. And thanks to these great minds the production cycle has been reduced to six weeks which is way faster than the conventional egg-based vaccine that lasts six months.

The Quebec–based firm intends to conduct their phase 3 clinical trial at a tobacco plant facility in North Carolina. If the trial goes well, Medicago will have the new tobacco-based vaccine ready for the 2020 season.

Author Bio: Electronic payments expert Blair Thomas co-founded eMerchantBroker, the No.1 online Tobacco merchant account Company serving both traditional and high-risk merchants. His passions include producing music and traveling to far off exotic places.