Medicago receives funding from DARPA for flu vaccine plant

Medicago USA, Inc., has received $5.6 million in funding from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency for a Research Triangle Park flu vaccine plant.

The payment is the third milestone payment that Medicago, which is the U.S. subsidiary of the Quebec City-based biotechnology company, has received for the 90,000-square-foot facility, the Triangle Business Journal reports. The company has now received $16.3 million to date for the project and is slated to eventually receive a total of $21 million\.

The One North Carolina Fund previously awarded the company a $128,000 state incentives grant. The company expects to create around 85 jobs in the area with 46 full time employees by the end of the year, plus another 31 contract workers.

“We continue to meet all milestones to date for this fast track project and our U.S. vaccine facility is projected to be operational during the second half of 2011,” Mike Wanner, vice president of U.S. operations of Medicago, said, according to the Triangle Business Journal.

Medicago signed a technology investment agreement with DARPA in August to develop the RTP facility, which will use tobacco leaves to create flu vaccines. The facility is expected to produce 10  million doses a month with the potential for expansion in the future. The company reported positive Phase 1 clinical trial results for its H1N1 vaccine on June 8.

If the vaccine is approved, it will eventually be manufactured at the new facility, which is expected to be completed in the fall.