Medicago facility cranks up for VLP vax production

Vaccine seeding is under way at Medicago's new 97,000-square-foot, plant-based vaccine facility in Research Triangle Park, NC. Less than a year after groundbreaking, the production of vaccines based on virus-like particles (VLPs) is moving forward thanks to a partial occupancy permit.

The company says it intends to demonstrate it has the capacity to produce 10 million doses per month of influenza vaccine with the potential for expansion.

Medicago is on a $21 million hook with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) for the project. A technology investment agreement provided for the development of the facility, a scaled-up and cGMP-capable version of the company's existing VLP vaccine factory.

Medicago's U.S. ops VP Mike Wanner explains the rush to get the facility online was necessary to keep the large-scale technology-transfer project on schedule, according to a statement. The partial occupancy permit allows Medicago to begin seeding operations. He expects full occupancy of the plant by the end of October.

The DARPA initiative is part of the U.S. government's Blue Angel project, which seeks to identify new ways to produce large amounts of vaccine grade protein in less than three months in response to emerging and novel biologic threats. VLP is seen as a candidate. The manufacturing technology involves production of recombinant vaccine antigens in non-transgenic plants, offering potential speed and cost advantages over traditional egg-based vaccine production.

- here's the Medicago release