Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma’s new tobacco-based seasonal influenza vaccine, currently under development, could prove to be a worthy rival of traditional chicken egg-based vaccines, according to research and consulting firm GlobalData’s infectious diseases analyst Achilleas Livieratos.

The company is implanting influenza genetic material into tobacco leaves, a manufacturing process originally developed by Medicago, a Canadian company acquired by Mitsubishi Tanabe in 2013.

Currently undergoing Phase III trials, the first tobacco-based, virus-like particle (VLP) seasonal influenza vaccine is expected to be launched in the US market by the 2018-2019 flu season.

The VLP vaccine can be produced in four weeks, which means six times faster than egg-based methods and it can generate effective and longer-lasting protection while being amenable to various production methods, according to Livieratos.

"Mitsubishi Tanabe’s pipeline tobacco product is one of a number of VLP influenza vaccines set to take over from the traditional kind."

The egg-based vaccines require nearly six months to work, during which time minor genetic mutations can decrease efficacy of the vaccine, individuals with egg allergies cannot safely receive vaccines, leaving them vulnerable to infection.

As a result of such limitations caused by the use of egg-based vaccines, Mitsubishi Tanabe is advancing the development of the plant-based alternative to treat seasonal influenza that is considered as a global healthcare challenge.

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Livieratos added: "A number of vaccine giants including Sanofi, GlaxoSmithKline and MedImmune / AstraZeneca are also developing their vaccine portfolios. However, their current egg-based, quadrivalent, inactivated (split virus) seasonal influenza vaccines lack the manufacturing efficiency of tobacco plant-derived vaccines that can also generate virus-like particles (VLPs).

"Mitsubishi Tanabe’s pipeline tobacco product is one of a number of VLP influenza vaccines set to take over from the traditional kind, as they represent an exciting emerging vaccine class that can generate effective and longer-lasting protection while also being amenable to a diverse array of production methods."