Kentucky-grown tobacco could someday be used in the fight against influenza. It’s the premise of research work underway at Kentucky Bio-Processing in Owensboro. C-E-O Hugh Hayden says the western Kentucky company has worked on the experimental program with the U-S Department of Defense. Hayden says proteins found in tobacco could be used to cultivate flu vaccines.
“If you can produce that vaccine and have it being effective and you can do it more quickly in response to the actual strain of influenza that is circulating in that year…you have a much better chance of actually stemming the potential for any type of pandemic,” said Hayden.
Currently, raw eggs provide those nutrients Company C-E-O Hugh Hayden admits the research is in the early stages. If successful, Hayden says their plant would need quick and easy access to a special small type of tobacco.
“It’s been pampered to maximize the amount of protein that it’s produced..you take it out of that pampered environment..and immediately the plant responds and the protein starts to diminish,” added Hayden.
Probably, Hayden says the tobacco would need to be grown within a 90 minute drive of their facility. Farmer Scott Travis says it might mean a lot to tobacco growers in western Kentucky.
“The scope at some point in time could be a lot greater than it is now..and that should be able to open the door to for our farmers to have an opportunity,” said Hayden.
Travis chairs the Kentucky Tobacco Research Board. Hayden recently gave a presentation to the board when it met in Lexington. Such research is funded by the U-S Department of Defense. Work at the Kentucky Tobacco Research and Development Center is supported with a state tax on cigarettes