Company plans trial for plant-based COVID-19 vaccines in Austin

Texas Coronavirus Vaccine

AUSTIN (KXAN) — A plant-based COVID-19 vaccine could be added to the mix if a trial starting soon in Austin goes well.

Local clinical company Benchmark Research is looking for up to 250 volunteers for a trial with the Medicago vaccine.

“It’s really important to have another vaccine, because we still have hundreds of millions of people to vaccinate,” said Benchmark Research CEO Mark Lacy.

The two-dose vaccine uses plants to make versions of the viruses that are non-infectious. Medicago says the vaccine is made from a cousin of the tobacco plant, but not the tobacco plant used for cigarettes or other commercial tobacco products.

“You don’t have any tobacco coming into your system,” said Lacy, because it’s no longer actual tobacco by the time it’s made into a different molecule and put into your system. “I wouldn’t count tobacco as being a minus for this study.”

The immune system is able to recognize the virus-like particles the plant is transformed into, however they lack core genetic material — which makes them unable to replicate.

Plant-based vaccines aren’t a new concept, Lacy adds. There have been 110 different trials of plant-based vaccines developed over 35 companies, which have been tested on other viruses as well.

Anyone 18 and up is eligible for the Medicago vaccine and researchers are hoping for a racially diverse set of participants, particularly because it needs a percentage of each minority in order to go to the FDA for approval.

“Preference will be given to those who are older, or who have comorbidities or other factors that should be put at the top of the line first,” said Lacy, regarding who they will allow to participate in the trial, but they will also open it up to healthy adults.

The positive signs are there. Lacy says so far it has proven to result in a stronger immune response and also to be more effective on people with autoimmune diseases.

Questions they’ll be looking to answer in this trial is how long participants will have immunity and what response the body will have to the vaccine. Lacy expects similar side effects to those of Pfizer, Moderna and the Johnson & Johnson vaccines.

He also adds that he thinks this vaccine could be an option for those who have been hesitant to receive it.

“I do think that people who are anti-vaxxers or who want something as natural as possible are more likely to turn to something like a plant-based vaccine.”

Those who decide to participate will be under medical care for a year and will be paid $150 per visit.

The first trial with the Medicago vaccine is already underway in Florida, and studies will start next week at all three of Benchmark’s sites in Austin, Fort Worth and New Orleans.

Those interested in learning more about participating in a Benchmark Research trial can call (888) 902-9605 or visit the Benchmark Research.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Tracking the Coronavirus

Coronavirus Cases Tracker

Latest Central Texas COVID-19 Cases

Trending Stories

Don't Miss