Medicago building $200M plant to manufacture vaccines from plants

Medicago's Research Triangle Park, NC, facility--Courtesy of Medicago

Canada's Medicago, a biotech that is using plant technology to manufacture vaccines against Ebola and other viruses, will build a $200 million manufacturing facility in Quebec City. The company is getting substantial support from taxpayers but says when complete, it will more than double its workforce there.

The $245 million ($200 million), 44,000-square-meter (473,612-square-foot) project will incorporate R&D and administrative space as well as a production facility at a 90,000-square-meter site at the Estimauville innovation park. Medicago, which was acquired in 2013 by Japan's Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma for $357 million, said the new headquarters and plant will replace its current facilities. Medicago said it is getting $68 million in loans for the project from the governments of Canada and Quebec, as well as $6.5 million in local help from Quebec City.

The company said it expects the new operation to add about 200 jobs to the 180 people currently working at its Quebec City office and laboratories when completed in 2019. Once it is fully operational, it will have the capacity to produce between 40 million and 50 million doses of quadrivalent seasonal flu vaccines. The company opened a 97,000-square-foot plant in Research Triangle Park, NC, in 2011 that can produce 10 million vaccine doses per month.

"We will export most of our vaccines to foreign markets, but we also believe our new production complex will help Canada meet its needs for seasonal and pandemic flu vaccines, in addition to strengthening the country's response to emerging diseases around the world," Andy Sheldon, Medicago's CEO, said in a statement.

Like several other companies, Medicago is working with tobacco plants to quickly make large quantities of vaccines or treatments. It says it was able to manufacture vaccine candidates in 19 days in 2009 for H1N1, or so-called swine flu, and in 2013 for H7N9, or avian flu. That compares with the months it can take to make flu vaccine in the traditional method relying on eggs. The company is currently working on a U.S. government contract to manufacture Ebola antibodies for a study in nonhuman primates.

- here's the release