Medicago makes a case for revolutionizing vaccine production

The recent swine flu pandemic turned out to be considerably milder than first anticipated, but it turned a blinding light on the time it still takes to get a new vaccine approved and in production. Now that the pandemic panic attack is over, new vaccine developers like Canada's Medicago are lining up to make the case that they have a ready answer to the world's vaccine supply problem.

Andy Sheldon, president and chief executive of Medicago, tells Dow Jones that once the vaccine company's technology is endorsed by regulators, they will be able to use tobacco plants to provide a new vaccine for testing in a month, and at only 10 percent of the cost of the system now in use. Medicago uses virus-like particle technology to produce vaccine antigens in plants.

"All we need is the genetic sequence. We take it, synthesize it in a DNA fragment, clone it, and modify our plants to produce this strain," says Sheldon. Medicago has already signed pacts with vaccine authorities in France, Japan, India and Saudi Arabia, and the CEO says that more are in the works.

Medicago is preparing for a Phase II study of its pandemic vaccine, with data expected in late 2010 or early 2011. And Medicago says that its shortened production cycle gives it more time to pick the viral strains that it needs to make a new vaccine.

- here's the report from Dow Jones (sub. req.)