SASKATOON -- The University of Saskatchewan’s Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization-International Vaccine Centre (VIDO-InterVac) is to test a potential plant-based COVID-19 vaccine’s effectiveness in animal models in the coming weeks.

It will be using purified protein provided by its research collaborator, Canadian company ZYUS Life Sciences, according to a news release.

Preliminary research results from ZYUS show that plant-based antigens are reactive to anti-COVID-19 antibodies and potentially offer immunity from COVID-19, the company said.

The company, which specializes in medical cannabis research, says it was able to express a coronavirus protein in Nicotiana benthamiana, a variety of the tobacco plant, and showed that the plant-based SARS-CoV-2 protein is recognized by antibodies in the serum of recovered COVID-19 patients.

That suggests that plant-based protein, in this form of a vaccine, could potentially provide protection from COVID-19 infection.

“Rapid production of large quantities of an antigen with suitable purity and quality is a critical step in developing a vaccine for COVID-19,” said Brent Zettl, ZYUS CEO.

“These preliminary test results are an important step forward, offering scientists and researchers more options to scale vaccine production in the global fight against COVID-19.”