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KXAN, a local news station in Austin, is reporting that a local company is working on a Covid-19 vaccine trial. The trial is starting soon and the product would be available soon if all goes well.

Source: Global News/YouTube

Benchmark Research, the clinical company managing the vaccine, is looking for volunteers for the Medicago vaccine. The vaccine is two doses and is made with tobacco, instead of traditional vaccine ingredients.

Benchmark CEO Mark Lacy explained the opportunity in KXAN, “It’s really important to have another vaccine because we still have hundreds of millions of people to vaccinate. Lacy notes the tobacco has been transformed before entering your system as the vaccine. “You don’t have any tobacco coming into your system. I wouldn’t count tobacco as being a minus for this study.”

Dr. Matthew Hong, principal investigator for a Medicago vaccine trial at Wake Research in Raleigh, North Carolina, describes the process as “making a smoothie out of the plant basically blenderizing it and then extracting this protein from the plant and using that as a vaccine for the coronavirus.”

Although the protein in this vaccine, tobacco, is plant-based, the vaccine itself still contains squalene, which is usually derived from sharks. The company that provides the squalene, GSK, claims that “squalene is a by-product of the fishing industry rather than the main driver.” Conservationists warn that up to half a million sharks could be killed to produce the coronavirus vaccine. Sharks produce squalene, the natural oil in their livers, that’s used in vaccines around the world. Squalene is used to create a stronger immune response in the vaccine, therefore increasing its efficacy.

Stefanie Brendl, the executive director of Shark Allies, says that most companies use shark squalene, rather than squalene derived from plants because “shark oil is cheap and easy to come by,” however, “that’s not an excuse.” Some companies, including GSK, are researching synthetic alternatives for future vaccines.

The company behind the vaccine, Medicago, is based in Quebec and has a facility in North Carolina. The Medicago vaccine isn’t the first vaccine to use a plant-based protein. There have been 110 trials in 35 companies, Lacy shared. He said the positive signs of efficacy are there.

If you’re interested in participating in a Benchmark Research trial can call 888-902-9605 or visit the Benchmark Research. If you’re interested in participating in the Wake Research trial, call 919-645-9210 or click here. For more information on participating in a Medicago vaccine trial, visit COVID-19 Vaccine Study.

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