Kentucky Bioprocessing has a potential coronavirus vaccine in pre-clinical testing, according to a company statement.

KBP operates a biomanufacturing facility in MidAmerica Airpark. It inserts genes into tobacco plants to create vaccines and other products.

In a Messenger-Inquirer story published on March 8, Kentucky BioProcessing officials confirmed the Owensboro company was working on a coronavirus vaccine.

The company can grow, harvest and process as many as 3 million protein-producing tobacco plants in a five-week production cycle, as compared to traditional methods that can take several months.

Once Chinese health authorities released the genetic sequence of the coronavirus in January, KBP scientists started to examine its structure to design an engineered vaccine that might neutralize it.

“Kentucky Bioprocessing is an innovative company that has such a positive impact on the world,” said Brittaney Johnson, president and CEO of the Greater Owensboro Economic Development Corp. “We are proud KBP is part of the greater Owensboro region and continues to be a global leader in the expression, extraction, processing and purification of biopharmaceutical proteins from plant-based systems.”

If pre-clinical testing goes well and the right support can be secured, KBP’s parent company, British American Tobacco, hopes between 1 and 3 million doses of the vaccine could be manufactured per week, beginning in June, a company statement said.

“Vaccine development is challenging and complex work, but we believe we have made a significant breakthrough with our tobacco plant technology platform and stand ready to work with governments and all stakeholders to help win the war against (the coronavirus),” David O’Reilly, BAT director of scientific research, said in a statement.

According to a story published Wednesday in MarketWatch, at least 19 companies are working on vaccines to fight the worldwide pandemic. Their vaccine candidates are in various stages of testing.

For example, Gilead Sciences, best known for its hepatitis C cure, is in phase three clinical trials with its coronavirus vaccine. CytoDyn is in phase two clinical trials with its drug leronlimab, MarketWatch reported.

Pharmaceutical heavyweights Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson are in the mix, too.

KBP worked with San Diego-based Mapp Biopharmaceutical and the government to develop a drug treatment for the Ebola virus in 2014.

Renee Beasley Jones, 270-228-2835, rbeasleyjones@messenger-inquirer.com

Renee Beasley Jones, 270-228-2835, rbeasleyjones@messenger-inquirer.com

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