Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Health Anutin Charnvirakul, together with the Department of Medical Sciences director and the director of the National Vaccine Institute, has inspected the model plant-based medicines and biological products manufacturing facility, at which a new type of COVID-19 vaccine made from the tobacco plant will be produced.

The candidate vaccine, developed by a pharmaceutical startup Baiya Phytopharm, together with the Faculty of Pharmacy at Chulalongkorn University, has been in development since February 2020.

Designed as a protein subunit vaccine, this vaccine will introduce selected SARS-CoV-2 antigens into the recipient’s body to stimulate an immune response, unlike the viral vector or mRNA technologies which require the body to express these antigens itself.

The antigen will be grown and harvested in tobacco leaves, using a bacteria to transfer specific coronavirus genetic information into the plant. The modified tobacco plant which now carries the antigen will be farmed in a plantation. The plants will be harvested, the antigen extracted, then purified and made into a vaccine. The team plans to conduct the purification process at the Kingen Biotech’s facility, before bottling at the Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute.

The Chula-Baiya candidate vaccine will start Phase 1 of human trials early next month with around 100 subject, to establish the appropriate dosage, either 10, 50, or 100 micrograms. The team aims to introduce the vaccine for use by Thai people in Q3 2022, with production capacity at 60 million doses a year. They also say the plant-based technology allows the vaccine to be easily adapted for newer variants.

According to