Medicago says it can bid for government supply orders

Jan. 07, 2013 @ 08:03 PM

Medicago, a Canada-based company working to develop influenza vaccines produced using tobacco leaves, announced a contract on Monday that officials said could potentially mean jobs for the company’s local plant.

The company said in a news release that it was awarded a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency contract that will allow it to bid to manufacture and deliver certain tobacco-based proteins.

“This fits Medicago’s revenue-generation model nicely as we can leverage our cost-effective commercial production facility in North Carolina to bid for production orders when they are issued by the U.S. government,” said Mike Wanner, executive vice president of operations for Medicago.

The company is one of several potential vendors of the proteins, Wanner said, but he said he was confident in the company’s ability to compete for production jobs.

He said that if the company was awarded an order, it would need additional resources – mainly additional workers for the company’s facility in the Research Triangle Park.

Wanner said the facility is being mainly used to produce vaccines for use in clinical trials testing its own product candidates. The facility now employs 70, Wanner said.

Medicago is a clinical-stage company, which means it doesn’t have any products on the market yet. The company is working to develop flu vaccines with virus-like particles using tobacco leaves.

Among its product candidates is a quadrivalent flu vaccine that includes four different strains of influenza virus, Wanner said.

According to the company’s news release, Medicago officials expect interim data in the summer from a Phase IIa clinical trial for that vaccine candidate.

Medicago is developing vaccine candidates that use “virus-like particles” that mimic the structure of a virus, allowing them to be recognized the body’s immune system, according to the company’s website http://www.medicago.com/English/Technologies/Vaccines/default.aspx. However, they do not contain the virus’ genetic material, so they’re not infectious.

While licensed flu vaccines are produced in fertilized eggs, Medicago is developing candidates that are produced in plants. It expects its plant-based technologies can be produced more quickly and more cost effectively.

Medicago USA Inc., a subsidiary of the Canada-based company, was previously awarded a $21 million agreement with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency for a proof-of-concept demonstration to produce 10 million doses of a vaccine candidate in 30 days.  The company said the project was successfully completed in July.