Tobacco Vaccine Could Be Reality Soon

The federal government is giving Texas A&M and a private company 40 million dollars to develop flu vaccines from tobacco. As David Pitman reports, the goal is to be able to respond to flu outbreaks with new vaccines quicker than current technology.
Since the 1950's, flu vaccines have been made from chicken eggs inoculated with the virus. But that can sometimes mean up to a six month wait for a vaccine, once a flu virus is isolated.

And if the eggs don't produce the expected amount of vaccine, it can result in shortages — like it did with the H1N1 vaccine last fall.

Researchers at A&M, along with a company called g-con, hope to solve that problem by using tobacco to cultivate flu proteins. New vaccines could be developed within four to six weeks. And they wouldn't have any nicotine.

The 40 million dollar grant from the Department of Defense would pay for 10 million doses of tobacco-based swine flu vaccine. Clinical trials on humans could happen sometime in the second half of next year. One of the lead researchers on the project says if all goes well, the tobacco-based vaccine facility could eventually pump out as many as a billion doses per month.
Bio photo of David Pitman

David Pitman

Local Host, Morning Edition

The one question David hears most often isn't "What is it like to work for an NPR member station?" or "Have you ever met Terry Gross?" (he has)...