Medicago, Philip Morris ink China vaccines deal

Vaccines-focused biopharmaceutical company Medicago inked an agreement giving tobacco company Philip Morris International the license to develop the company's pandemic and seasonal influenza vaccines for China.

Philip Morris will pay Medicago $4.5 million upfront and the biopharmaceutical company is eligible to receive development milestone payments totaling $7.5 million. Medicago also will receive royalty payments on future sales of pandemic and seasonal influenza vaccines in China that use the company's technology.

In another related agreement, Medicago licensed a portfolio of plant-based protein development technologies from Philip Morris. The portfolio includes tools and methods for producing proteins in plants. The vaccine maker will pay $700,000 for the portfolio.

"We believe some of these technologies will be very useful moving forward," Medicago CEO Andy Sheldon told FierceVaccines.

Philip Morris Investments, a subsidiary of Philip Morris International, holds about 40% of Medicago's shares.

"Philip Morris, they have been investing in Medicago for four or 5 years," Sheldon said. "They are one of the reasons that we have been able to take our technology and our platform and our products and really make sure we're able to deliver them."

The tobacco giant began investing in the vaccines company in 2008, Sheldon said, and has been doing so since. Sheldon expressed excitement in signing a commercial deal in one of the largest growth markets in the world.

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