17 Mar Plant-Based Coronavirus Vaccine Candidate Developed by Medicago
MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Nathalie Charland PhD
Senior Director, Scientific and Medical Affairs
MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?
Response: We started to work on solutions as soon as we were able to obtain the appropriate genetic information for the new COVID-19. Medicago is committed to advancing therapeutics against life-threatening diseases worldwide.
MedicalResearch.com: How can we overcome the challenges of bringing an effective vaccine to market on an accelerated schedule during a global health concern?
Response: Vaccine manufacturers such as Medicago will be working with public health authorities to accelerate clinical testing of their vaccines. In exceptional circumstances, these authorities can allow candidate vaccines to be distributed at the populations as was observed during the West Africa Ebola epidemics in 2017-18, when the authorities believe that the disease risks exceed those for the candidate vaccine.
MedicalResearch.com: How does vaccine development using plant-based technology differ from traditional vaccination development, and what could that mean for development of the company’s COVID-19 vaccine?
- As soon as the genetic sequence of the virus was made available, Medicago was able to develop a research-grade vaccine candidate in just 20 days. Our recombinant technology allows the production of a vaccine that precisely matches the circulating strains, such as in the case of seasonal influenza. The technology is easily scalable, simply increasing the number of plants it uses to increase the volume of production.
- Plants are highly efficient at producing proteins of varying complexity, serving as bioreactors – or mini factories – for our vaccines and protein-based therapeutics. Medicago’s plant-based production platform demonstrates agility, accuracy, and speed by limiting the risk of undesirable mutations (no use of live viruses) and contamination during production, and significantly shortening production timelines.
- Medicago developed the Proficia® technology, a proprietary potential alternative to traditional cell-based production systems. For example, traditional licensed influenza vaccines are prepared from embryonated chicken eggs, inoculated individually with each virus type. With living plants as hosts, Proficia® technology uses transient protein expression in plant leaves to create a flexible, high-yield system for producing effective vaccines and antibodies. This technology platform is very versatile and to date has been able to produce a wide range of protein-based products providing many opportunities beyond influenza such as COVID-19.
MedicalResearch.com: Given the company’s experience as a first responder to pandemics in the past – including vaccines for H1N1 and a monoclonal antibody Ebola treatment – how has this prepared Medicago to address COVID-19?
Response: We at Medicago were confident that our plant-based platform could have the capacity to rapidly generate a candidate vaccine as we tested it with a number of different targets, other than influenza or Ebola. The company has several vaccines in development in its pipeline including a Norovirus vaccine, a Rotavirus vaccine, a Universal flu vaccine and antibodies for infectious diseases and immuno-oncology therapies.
MedicalResearch.com: Is there anything else you would like to add?
Response: Beyond a candidate vaccine for COVID-19, The versatility and flexibility of Medicago’s platform allow us to work in collaboration with Dr. Gary Kobinger from Laval University to develop an antibody candidate that could be used as a treatment.
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