Thursday, February 2, 2017
Flu vaccine production using tobacco leaves..
The race to stop the flu virus is on with scientists working round the clock to produce a safe,effective and readily available vaccine. In the fore front of the research is a biotech company,medicago that are making flu vaccines from tobacco leaves. Currently, vaccines are produced using a process that involves injecting small bits of flu genes into a chicken egg and allowing them to grow. The current method is slow and production process takes five or six months. Medicago, have a greenhouse where they are planting tobacco plant Nicotiana tabacum, better known as smoking tobacco. This Australian plant is native to the desert and has historically been used as a stimulant although it contains less nicotine than standard field tobacco for the purposes of vaccine production. The strong point of the plant is that it matures in just six weeks. The technology inoculates genetic material into the leaves which in turn produces flu-like particles containing antigens and this trigger immune responses. The safety level is high because the particles are not live flu viruses, hence chances of infection are minimal. Once the solution is inside the plant, the virus like particles spend a week growing, after a few days the plants’ leaves become mottled and discolored. At the end of a week, the leaves are picked off each plant by hand for processing into a bulk vaccine. Public reaction has been largely supportive as people like the idea of creating something positive from a plant with such negative stigma, and because , it helps that the vaccine extraction process leaves no residual nicotine. The new vaccines will even be vegan-friendly — some vegans currently avoid egg-based flu vaccines. According to the Nikkei Asian Review, The technique will be put into commercial use in fiscal 2018 or 2019. Mitsubishi Tanabe has all but finished verifying the safety and effectiveness of the vaccines in the U.S. and Canada. The inoculations are set to undergo final clinical trials in the U.S. by the end of this year. If the firm meets its profitability goals, it will consider expanding the project into Asia, according to company President Masayuki Mitsuka. Clinical trials are also being conducted for bird flu and H7 influenza vaccines produced from tobacco leaves. In addition, the company is developing vaccines for rotavirus and for rabies using the same technique.