Vaccines firm Medicago and Philip Morris Products (PMP) inked a $4.5 million up-front deal giving the latter an exclusive license to develop, commercialize, and manufacture Medicago’s pandemic and seasonal influenza vaccines in China. The firm separately licensed from PMP a portfolio of plant-based protein development technologies. PMP is a subsidiary of tobacco giant Philip Morris International, which holds a 40% stake in Medicago through its Philip Morris Investments operation.

As part of the flu vaccines deal, Medicago will receive $7.5 million in development milestones on top of its $4.5 million initial fee from PMP, plus future royalty payments on sales in China of seasonal or pandemic flu vaccines based on Medicago technologies. Under terms of the plant technologies deal, Medicago will make a $0.7 million payment to PMP, plus royalties on future sales of products that utilize the technologies, which include tools and methods for generating proteins in plants that the firm says will complement its existing technology platform.

Medicago is exploiting its virus-like particle (VLP) and plant-based expression technologies to develop vaccines and therapeutic proteins against infectious diseases. The firm’s internal pipeline is headed by a VLP-based pandemic H5N1 flu vaccine, which has completed Phase II trials and has been authorized for emergency use. A quadrivalent seasonal flu vaccine is approaching Phase II development. Development of the pandemic vaccine is supported by a $21 million Department of Defense grant, and a PATH award is supporting further development of the firm’s influenza vaccines. Last month Medicago and partner The Infectious Disease Research Institute (IDRI) were given regulatory go-ahead to start a Phase I trial evaluating an H5N1 influenza VLP vaccine combined with IDRI’s glucopyranosyl lipid A adjuvant. 

During early spring this year Medicago established a strategic alliance with Mitsubishi Pharma Tanabe to establish joint development programs for at least three new vaccines, including an initial project focused on rotavirus. 

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