An ancient relative of tobacco, much maligned for the damage it has inflicted on public health, is key to a new vaccine to prevent the novel coronavirus.
Medicago – a Canadian company with a biomanufacturing facility in Durham – has used it to produce an experimental plant-based vaccine for COVID-19, the coronavirus disease that has now reached a global pandemic level.
The vaccine is built around a virus-like particle (VLP) grown in nicotiana benthamiana, which is closely linked to tobacco.
The vaccine candidate will now undergo preclinical testing for safety and effectiveness. Medicago said human trials could begin as early as this summer. If approved, the therapy will be manufactured at company facilities in Quebec and Durham.