London — Investors are betting on a little-known biotech company to supply Big Tobacco with low-nicotine cigarettes, but so far its technology is unproven. Shares in New York-based 22nd Century Group have soared 80% to a three-year high since late last month, when the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proposed cutting the nicotine levels in cigarettes so they aren’t so addictive. Investors’ hopes are pinned on 22nd Century’s technology becoming widespread, although none of the big tobacco makers has bought it yet. The plant biotechnology company says it has more than 200 patents that give it the ability to increase or decrease the level of nicotine in tobacco plants, as well as the level of cannabinoids in cannabis plants. "We genetically modify the tobacco. We’ve been working on this for 20 years," Henry Sicignano, CEO of 22nd Century, told Reuters. Sicignano, who helped to develop Natural American Spirit cigarettes before the brand was bought by RJ Reynolds in 2002, said the a...

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