Medicago USA received $3.56 million from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), making it the fourth milestone payment it has received in connection with setting up a manufacturing process in the U.S. for its plant-expressed VLP vaccines. The firm has received $19.8 million to date in success-based fees and stands to earn another $1.2 million.
"This milestone focused on completing documentation related to a phased commissioning approach to the cGMP facility and equipment as well as results from recent engineering runs in Research Triangle Park (RTP), North Carolina,” explains Mike Wanner, vp U.S. operations. “Our U.S. vaccine facility began operations in September 2011, and we continue to expect to complete the fifth and sixth milestones related to this project in the first half of 2012."
Medicago previously entered a $21 million Technology Investment Agreement with DARPA to develop a 97,000-square-foot vaccine facility in RTP. This facility is a large, scaled-up facility for Medicago's VLP plant-based vaccine technology, designed for the delivery of cGMP-grade vaccine. Medicago intends to demonstrate its capacity to produce 10 million doses/month of influenza vaccines with the potential for future further expansion.
Medicago's Proficia™ technology is an alternative to current egg-based and cell production systems. Using whole living plants as hosts, Proficia technology is a rapid, flexible, high-yielding, and robust vaccine and antibody production system, according to the firm. Vaccine production can reportedly be initiated within less than three weeks from the identification of the genetic sequence from a pandemic or seasonal influenza strain.