VLP vaccine will be produced using plant leaf production system.

Canadian vaccines firm Medicago has been awarded $946,000 in funding from PATH as part of a research collaboration between the organizations to develop a broad-coverage influenza vaccine for the developing world, based on Medicago’s plant leaf production system and virus-like particle (VLP) vaccine technology.

Medicago is focused on the development of effective, affordable VLP vaccines manufactured using its Proficia™ production technology, which is a vaccine and antibody production system based on transient protein expression in plant leaves. The firm’s current pipeline centers on vaccines against influenza, and is headed by a Phase II-stage pandemic flu vaccine against H5N1.

“This collaboration with PATH is in line with our global strategy of developing in emerging countries where we believe our plant-based manufacturing technology can offer a unique cost-effective solution,” says Andy Sheldon, president and CEO at Medicago.

Announcement of the new collaboration with PATH follows just two weeks after Medicago held an official groundbreaking ceremony at its U.S. plant-based commercial-grade vaccine facility in Research Triangle Park, NC. The GMP facility will include a fully automated greenhouse and extraction and purification unit. It is hoped that it will be able to produce some 10 million doses of pandemic influenza vaccine per month. On an annual basis the facility is expected to have a production capacity of 40 million doses of seasonal Influenza vaccine or 120 million doses of pandemic influenza vaccine.

In June Medicago signed a memorandum of understanding with PT Bio Farma to identify and develop select vaccine targets of mutual interest. The companies hope eventually to establish a partnership and build a Medicago plant-based manufacturing facility in The Republic of Indonesia. Initially Medicago and PT Bio Farma will collaborate on the execution of a proof of concept evaluation on Medicago’s plant-based VLP technology for a selected vaccine target.

Medicago claims vaccine production using plants as bioreactors has a number of advantages compared with chicken egg and cell-based approaches. The use of plants avoids the supply issue associated with eggs, and the plant-based manufacturing system has no requirement for strain adaptation, a process that requires an additional four to six months before vaccine production can be initiated, the firm notes. As a result, using the plant-based system vaccine production can be initiated just 14 days after a target influenza virus sequence has been identified.

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