A unit of a Japanese company backed by Philip Morris International is planning to launch the world’s first plant-based Covid-19 vaccine that is potentially cheaper and easier to transport and store than conventional jabs.
Toshifumi Tada, head of vaccine business development at Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma, said its subsidiary Medicago would apply for Canadian approval for its vaccine candidate that is made from a plant from the tobacco family by the end of this year.
The Osaka-based pharmaceutical group expects global demand for Covid vaccines to remain strong as new strains of coronavirus continue to emerge, giving it an opportunity to break into a market that has been dominated by frontrunners such as Pfizer, Moderna, and AstraZeneca.
“As with seasonal flu, we don’t expect demand [for Covid vaccines] to suddenly disappear, and there is still much uncertainty regarding emerging variants,” Tada said. “We believe there is value in expanding options for vaccines.”
No plant-based vaccine has been approved for use in humans, but proponents of the technology said such vaccines were attractive because plant leaves grow quickly, shortening the manufacturing process and lowering costs. Faster production, they added, also makes it easier to adapt to combat new strains.