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Plant-based COVID-19 vaccine being studied in Nebraska

Initial studies indicate the vaccine could provide more protection and have fewer side effects.

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Paid volunteers are now enrolling in a study seeking federal emergency approval for a new plant-derived COVID-19 vaccine.

Be Well Clinical Studies in Nebraska is one entity assisting in conducting phase three trials of the Medicago vaccination, which was developed by a biopharmaceutical company based in Canada.

"For those who complete all of their visits, they will be compensated for their time approximately about $1,000," said Dr. Mark Carlson the principal investigator for Be Well Clinical Studies.

Medicago needs 30,000 participants worldwide.

To qualify, you have to be 18 years of age or older and haven't either had COVID-19 or been vaccinated.

"Our pool of potential subjects is shrinking daily, and so Medicago is trying to amplify this trial as quickly as possible," Carlson said.

Carlson said initial studies indicate the two-dose Medicago vaccine could provide more protection and have fewer side effects.

It uses plants to produce coronavirus-like particles that jump-start the immune system.

Since the particles are not derived from animals, they don't have core genetic material that can create adverse reactions.

"Thus far, the safety profile from the Medicago pre-clinical data a well as the phase one and phase two data has identified nothing concerning regarding blood clotting or any other safety flags," Carlson said.

He said they need to study the vaccine to determine if could help future surges or mutations.

"COVID-19 is likely something that we're going to deal with perhaps for the rest of our lifetime. So we want a number of different tools in our chest," Carlson said.