(Reuters) – World’s No.2 cigarette company British American Tobacco said on Friday it was ready to test its potential COVID-19 vaccine using proteins from tobacco leaves on humans, after it generated a positive immune response in pre-clinical trials.

The maker of Lucky Strike cigarette said once it gets approval from the U.S. Food and Drug administration (FDA) for the vaccine, it would progress to Phase 1 trials or testing on humans.

The company raised eyebrows in April when it said it was developing a COVID-19 vaccine from tobacco leaves and could produce 1 million to 3 million doses per week if it got the support of government agencies and the right manufacturers.

Drugmakers across the globe have been racing to develop a vaccine for COVID-19, caused by the new coronavirus, with some of the vaccines already in human trials. Experts have suggested that a COVID-19 vaccine could take 12-18 months to develop.

On Friday, London-based BAT said it had submitted a pre-investigative new drug application to the FDA and that the agency had acknowledged the submission. BAT said it was also talking with other government agencies around the world about the vaccine.

The company said it has committed funds to conduct clinical trials, which it expects to start as early as late June, and invested in additional equipment to boost capacity.

Shares of the company were up 1.7% at 3,041 pence in afternoon trading on the London Stock Exchange.

(Reporting by Siddharth Cavale in Bengaluru; Editing by Shinjini Ganguli)