Medicago developing broad coverage flu vaccine

Medicago Inc. has recently received $946,000 in funding to develop a broad coverage influenza vaccine based on its proprietary plant-based Virus-Like Particle technologies.

Medicago received the funding from the U.S.-based PATH, an international global health nonprofit organization that collaborates with private and public-sector partners to advance the development of promising new influenza vaccines that can be affordable and accessible for people in low-resource countries.

Andy Sheldon, president and CEO of Medicago, said that the company is developing VLP vaccines to protect against H5N1 pandemic influenza. The VLP vaccines, he said, use a transient expression system that produces recombinant vaccine antigens in non-transgenic plants.

Ultimately, Sheldon said, this technology has the potential to offer advantages of speed and cost over competitive technologies. He said it could potentially deliver a vaccine for testing in approximately a month after the identification and reception of genetic sequences from a pandemic strain.

“We are very proud to be selected to collaborate with PATH on a vaccine that has the potential to impact health conditions in the developing world. This collaboration further recognizes the promise of our VLP’s,” Sheldon said. “Moreover, this collaboration with PATH is in line with our global strategy of development in emerging countries where we believe our plant-based manufacturing technology can offer a unique cost-effective solution.”

Dr. Kathleen Neuzil, director of PATH's influenza vaccine project, also touted the technology's benefits.

“A technology that can respond quickly with high capacity, and produce safe, affordable and efficacious vaccines against influenza for low-resource countries is of very high value,” Neuzil said. “This collaboration with Medicago fits well with our goal to make influenza vaccines more affordable and accessible for the global population.”