Company with ties to Research Triangle Park developing potential COVID-19 vaccine from plants

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. (WTVD) -- A Canadian company with ties to Research Triangle Park is in the race to develop a vaccine against the novel coronavirus.

Medicago, a biopharmaceutical company headquartered in Quebec City, announced Thursday that they finished the first step in creating a plant-based vaccine against SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus.

The company created a virus-like particle--a non-infectious agent that mimics the shape and size of a virus so the body can recognize it and create an immune response--that imitates the novel coronavirus.

Medicago's vaccine will now undergo pre-clinical testing for safety and efficacy.

"Every day you're hearing about another effort and another company coming forward with another potential vaccine and potential treatment, and I think that's exciting for all of us because we need as many options as possible," said Medicago CEO Dr. Bruce Clark.

Medicago is no stranger to fighting pandemics.

In 2009, the company produced a research-grade vaccine candidate against H1N1 in just 19 days. In 2012, Medicago manufactured 10 million doses of an influenza vaccine within one month for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), part of the U.S. Department of Defense. In 2015, Medicago also demonstrated that it could rapidly produce an anti-Ebola antibody cocktail for the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

"The pace of our initial progress in COVID-19 is attributable to the capability of our plant-based platform, which is able to produce vaccine and antibody solutions to counteract this global public health threat. The ability to produce a candidate vaccine within 20 days after obtaining the gene is a critical differentiator for our proven technology. This technology enables scale-up at unprecedented speed to potentially combat COVID-19." Clark said.

Medicago expects to discuss with the appropriate health agencies to initiate human trials of the vaccine by summer 2020.
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