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Medicago aims to distribute its vaccine sometime this summer

With current vaccine production and distribution headaches and the vaccine nationalism on display in some countries, the prospect of a Canadian-made vaccine is more appealing than ever

Original article (French only) Journal de Québec

Quebec City-based biopharmaceutical company Medicago is continuing its efforts to complete its clinical study and get Health Canada approval for its vaccine “sometime this summer.”

“We’re all working very hard,” says Nathalie Charland, senior scientific and medical director at Medicago. “We need to recruit 30,000 people for phase 3, and that takes time.”

Ottawa has reserved 20 million doses of the Medicago vaccine, with an option for an additional 56 million.

The company is planning a two-dose vaccine to optimize immunization.

“We’re seeing a very strong immune response after the first dose, but it’s even better after the second. We’re hoping to offer more durable and broader protection, which could eventually protect against variants. That’s what we’re studying now,” says Charland.

The company is also looking to reassure Canadians—even though Medicago doesn’t have the same production capacity as biopharmaceutical giants like Pfizer or AstraZeneca, it should be able to deliver “several tens of millions of doses.”

Medicago is in the process of building a plant on the east side of Quebec City in order to “meet increased demand that could emerge in the coming years, whether for the coronavirus vaccine or any other pandemic we might see.”

Can’t help Pfizer

Why not help big pharmaceutical companies like Pfizer produce their vaccines, like Sanofi has done in Europe?

“Unfortunately we can’t help Pfizer because the production technology is completely different,” said Ms. Charland.

The Pfizer/BioTech vaccine is based on messenger RNA, while the Medicago one uses viral-like particle proteins, the same technology used in the human papillomavirus vaccine.

No other vaccines that are approved or pending approval use this kind of technology.