It is known as the company that makes products that affect people’s lungs. For long BAT has endured restrictive legislation and health campaigns that discourage cigarette smoking, BAT’s cash cow products. Research has found a direct relationship between cigarette smoking and cardiovascular diseases specifically heart and lung diseases.
BAT is working hard to change that perception.
First, the company undertook aggressive revenue diversification by investing a lot in research, development and later in advisory and consulting services. The health research product is now promising.
According to the Press Release by BAT on 1st April 2020 (it is still on, so it was not an April 1st fool’s day release), it states:
“BAT’s US biotech subsidiary, Kentucky BioProcessing (KBP), is developing a potential vaccine for COVID-19 and is now in pre-clinical testing. If testing goes well, BAT is hopeful that, with the right partners and support from government agencies, between 1 and 3 million doses of the vaccine could be manufactured per week, beginning in June.
While KBP remains a commercial operation, the intention is that its work around the COVID-19 vaccine project will be carried out on a not for profit basis.
The vaccine in development uses BAT’s proprietary, fast-growing tobacco plant technology which has several advantages over conventional vaccine production technology:
- It is potentially safer given that tobacco plants can’t host pathogens that cause human disease.
- It is faster because the elements of the vaccine accumulate in tobacco plants much more quickly – 6 weeks in tobacco plants versus several months using conventional methods.
- The vaccine formulation KBP is developing remains stable at room temperature, unlike conventional vaccines which often require refrigeration.
- It has the potential to deliver an effective immune response in a single dose.
BAT’s US subsidiary, Reynolds American Inc, acquired KBP in 2014, with the aim of using some of its unique tobacco extraction technology to aid further development of its new category non-combustible products.
In 2014, KBP made headlines as one of the few companies with an effective treatment for Ebola, having manufactured ZMapp™ with California-based company Mapp BioPharmaceuticals in partnership with the U.S. Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA).
KBP recently cloned a portion of COVID-19’s genetic sequence which led to the development of a potential antigen – a substance that induces an immune response in the body and in particular, the production of antibodies. This antigen was then inserted into tobacco plants for reproduction and, once the plants were harvested, the antigen was then purified, and is now undergoing pre-clinical testing.
BAT is now exploring partnerships with government agencies to bring its vaccine to clinical studies as soon as possible. Through collaborations with government and third-party manufacturers, BAT believes that between 1 and 3 million doses per week could be manufactured.”
To read the complete Press Release, click here >>.
BAT has continued to register returns to shareholders thanks to the leadership foresight and diversification into critical sectors like medical research, consulting among others.
Although the vaccine, if successful, shall be offered on a not for profit basis, such a break-through would benefit BAT significantly and be used to justify concessions and other ease on the strong global stance and campaigns against cigarette smoking.
The world is under siege of the coronavirus. A vaccine is what we need.
Globally, make medical researchers and doctors are having sleepless nights in search of a vaccine for coronavirus. The longer it takes to find one, the more damage the virus exerts on the world.
We cannot wait any longer.
We hope the BAT vaccine, although it is anticipated in two months, works.
Copyright Mustapha B Mugisa, 2020. All rights reserved.