New flu vaccine made from tobacco plant in the works


Greenhouse manager Charles Bryant is helping turn tobacco plants into flu vaccines for the bio-pharmaceutical company Medicago.

"The vaccine is actually produced inside the leaves itself," Bryant said.

The company's Mike Wanner says the plants are submerged in a natural bacteria that's genetically engineered. Then, the tobacco is put in a vacuum environment.

"It draws in the agrobacterium, and then the agrobacterium expands in the plant and that becomes the virus-like particle that is the vaccine," said Wanner.

Traditional flu vaccines are made from chicken eggs. Each egg can produce about four doses. Wanner says each one of the tobacco plants can make between 30 and 100 doses.

The plant-based vaccine is being tested on various flu strains right now.

"It induces a very strong immune response in humans," said Wanner.

If trials go as planned, the tobacco flu vaccine could be on the market sometime in 2016. Officials say the plants could also be used to make a variety of other vaccines, including one for rabies.

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