Thai startup working on Covid vax using tobacco leaves

Bangkok, Jan 18 (IANS): A startup in Thailand is aiming to develop the country's first Covid vaccine based on tobacco.

The start-up, Baiya Phytopharm, has been working on a vaccine using the leaves of an Australian tobacco plant, CNBC reported.

According to Dr. Suthira Taychakhoonavudh from Chulalongkorn University, the scientists want to "make a difference" in changing Thailand from a vaccine importer to a vaccine maker.

The three-year-old startup completed phase one human trials of its plant-based Covid vaccine in December last year. No plant-based Covid vaccines exist anywhere, though at least one other besides Baiya's is in development, the report said.

"So far, what we know is that ... all the volunteers are safe. And looking at the safety profile, we are very happy with it," Taychakhoonavudh was quoted as saying.

She added that it's still too early to ascertain its efficacy rate, but the goal is to use available vaccines as a benchmark.

The pharmaceutical company said it expects phase two trials to start in February and phase three trials in June. It also hopes to submit data to the Thai Food and Drug Administration for approval of the vaccine by the third or fourth quarter of this year, the report said.

The company said it can quickly increase its production capacity if the vaccine is approved.

"Currently, our facilities can produce around five million dose of vaccines per month, which is around 60 million doses of vaccine per year," Taychakhoonavudh said.

The company is also using the same tobacco plant to develop anti-cancer drugs and anti-ageing treatments.

US researchers have recently found that cannabis compounds have the ability to prevent the virus that causes Covid-19 from entering human cells.

The team found that a pair of cannabinoid acids bind to the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, blocking a critical step in the process the virus uses to infect people. The findings were published in the Journal of Natural Products.



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