Why tobacco might be in your next flu shot

Medicago is using a relative of the tobacco plant to develop a new flu shot.

As the supply of vaccines continues to drop in wake of the newest flu epidemic, one company is turning to a peculiar source to combat the virus: tobacco plants.

Medicago, which develops vaccines for a variety of infectious diseases worldwide, is using tobacco plants to fight the flu thanks to their genetic properties and low maintenance costs. Though the scientists are not able to create a vaccine for the current strain, they will have Phase II results of their experiment by this summer. From there, the time line to completion is common to any vaccine approval process — about four or five years.

We asked Mike Wanner, the executive vice president of operations at Medicago, to tell us more about his company’s efforts to fight the flu.

How did you discover that tobacco plants could be used to create flu vaccines?
Plants are one of the world’s most cost-effective protein producers and can make virtually any type of protein. Medicago’s process for manufacturing the virus-like protein has been developed and optimized for use with a relative of the tobacco plant. The leaves of these plants are well-suited to rapidly incorporate the genetic information required to produce proteins that appear to the human immune system as a live virus but are really virus-like particles.

Do patients who receive a tobacco-made vaccine get any tobacco byproducts in their bodies as a result?
No. Our vaccine facility includes a state-of-the-art extraction and purification unit and effectively removes plant cell materials. Therefore, the purity level of our product is extremely high.

Is it now too late to get a flu shot?
No, everyone who has not yet gotten vaccinated should do so as soon as possible. The vaccine is known to become effective within about two weeks of vaccination.

What causes a flu epidemic to go away?
In the general population, as the epidemic proceeds the number of people who are susceptible to a specific flu strain ultimately decreases — and so the rate at which new infections arise also decreases. Eventually, the rate at which individuals are recovering exceeds the rate at which new infections are occurring. When this rate drops to zero, the epidemic is over.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
International

Sierra Leone Ebola patient, recovered from family, dies…

An Ebola patient whose family sparked a nationwide hunt when they forcefully removed her from a treatment center and took her to a traditional healer has died.

Local

VIDEO: Cop reassigned as NYPD investigates alleged head…

An officer alleged to have stomped on a Brooklyn man's head last week had his gun taken away and placed on modified duty.

National

New York Times calls for legalization of pot

The New York Times editorial board on Saturday endorsed a repeal of the federal ban on marijuana, becoming the largest paper in the nation to back the idea.

National

Two injured after cable snaps on Ohio amusement…

(Reuters) - A cable on a large swing ride at an Ohio amusement park snapped and struck two riders as the swing was in motion,…

Music

Newport Folk Festival: Photo gallery of 35 moments…

As has been the tradition since Bob Dylan plugged in a bajillion years ago, the Newport Folk Festival embraces more musical genres than its name implies.

Music

MKTO: Behind the bromance

MKTO's Malcolm Kelley and Tony Oller talk about the American Dream tour, Demi Lovato and getting turned down by girls.

Arts

James Earl Jones and Rose Byrne head to…

Two-time Tony winner James Earl Jones returns to the New York stage next month as an eccentric grandfather in a revival of the 1930s comedy…

Movies

Box office: Scarlett Johansson wins battle of brains…

Scarlett Johansson's "Lucy" handily dispatched with Dwayne Johnson's "Hercules" over the weekend.

MLB

Yankees looking to trade for Josh Willingham: Report

CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reported Sunday the Yankees are interested in Twins outfielder Josh Willingham.

MLB

Joe Torre: I'm in Hall of Fame because…

Joe Torre spent 18 years putting together a near Hall of Fame career as a player. But it was the 12 years he spent as…

MLB

Yankees GM Brian Cashman breaks down art of…

The action frequently accelerates as the non-waiver trade deadline approaches, as it will on Thursday.

Auto racing

Jeff Gordon captures fifth title at Brickyard 400

Jeff Gordon captures fifth title at Brickyard 400

Wellbeing

This Week In Health: Friends share similar DNA,…

Friends share similar DNA, study finds Location: U.S. Study subjects: Nearly 2,000 people Results: When it comes to our social networks, it seems that birds of…

Education

Are liberal arts colleges turning away from the…

Bryn Mawr College, a small women's college located just outside of Philadelphia, announced last week that it would be making standardized tests like the SAT…

Education

Recent grads discover school superintendent plagiarized parts of…

  Two recent high school graduates made a surprising discovery about the commencement speech their school superintendent delivered at their graduation: portions of it was copied…

Career

Feeling stuck? Get out of the entry-level job…

Television and movies may be littered with 20-something characters who seem directionless when it comes to their careers, but author Mary Traina says she finds…