The maker of Benson & Hedges and Lucky Strike cigarettes claims it has developed a coronavirus vaccine made from tobacco plants.
British American Tobacco (BAT) said it can manufacture up to three million doses a week starting in June if it gets support from the UK Government.
The unproven vaccine is currently being tested on animals. But BAT is calling on Whitehall to fast-track the vaccine through rigorous human trials which could otherwise take the best part of a year and make the June date impossible.
BAT said it had pivoted its vast resources – the company is worth £65.5billion – to fighting the pandemic.
The London-headquartered firm added that it would sell the tests to the Government ‘at cost’, meaning without making any profit.
Tobacco firms are currently barred from doing deals with governments under World Health Organisation rules, but BAT said it planned to contact the WHO.
The company said it had approached the US Food and Drug Administration and UK’s Department of Health and Social Care about its vaccine.
It hopes to hopes to partner with the government agencies to bring the vaccine to clinical studies this month.
In a statement it said: ‘If testing goes well, BAT is hopeful that, with the right partners and support from government agencies, between 1million and 3million doses of the vaccine could be manufactured per week, beginning in June.’
The vaccine is being developed by BAT’s subsidiary firm Kentucky BioProcessing (KBP) in the US, using tobacco plant technology.