British American Tobacco launches plant-based biotech KBio

The UK-headquartered biotech will combine British American Tobacco’s plant-based technology capabilities with subsidiary Kentucky BioProcessing.

In 2020, Kentucky BioProcessing (KBP), the wholly owned subsidiary of the Big Tobacco firm British American Tobacco (BAT), entered the race to develop a COVID-19 vaccine.

Development of the candidate is ongoing, but the program, will now fall under the arm of KBio Holdings Limited (KBio), a newly launched biotech incorporating the two entities.

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“It’s a new company, which essentially incorporates KBP activities and aims to accelerate future activities,” a spokesperson from the firm told this publication.

“It is not a rebrand, it’s a new company. BAT believes very strongly in the potential of biotech and thought the best way to optimize this technology was to create a new company with a tailored focus and expertise.”

The new entity will focus on using tobacco plants to develop biologics and vaccines for rare and infectious disease.

The Phase I study for potential COVID-19 vaccine – KBP-201;NCT04473690 – has been fully recruited and remains ongoing.

“BAT copied a portion of the genetic sequence of the coronavirus antigen BAT developed; this is the substance that induces an immune response in the body and the production of antibodies,” the spokesperson told us.

“This sequence is then inserted into the plants for rapid multiplication production and, once the plants are harvested, the antigen is then purified, conjugated (or combined) with the TMV scaffold that allows it to effectively be carried into your cells where it can work.”

According to the spokesperson, while KBio will be headquartered in the UK, production capacity is currently in the US. The site in Kentucky could enable the company to produce as many as 3 million doses of antigen per week, we were told.

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