Operators sanitize each other after service on an ambulance for the transport of COVID-19 patients in Settimo Torinese, Northern Italy, Monday, March 23, 2020. For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms. For some it can cause more severe illness, especially in older adults and people with existing health problems. (Fabio Ferrari/LaPresse via AP)
Operators sanitize each other after service on an ambulance for the transport of COVID-19 patients in Settimo Torinese, Northern Italy, Monday, March 23, 2020. For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms. For some it can cause more severe illness, especially in older adults and people with existing health problems. (Fabio Ferrari/LaPresse via AP)

Covid-19: Canadian biotech company announces progress in developing a vaccine

By ANA Reporter Time of article published Mar 23, 2020

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CAPE TOWN - Canadian biotechnology company, Medicago announced on Monday it successfully produced virus-like particles (VLP) of the coronavirus in just 20 days using proprietary plant-based technology.

According to the company, the production of the VLP is the first step in developing a vaccine for Covid-19, which will undergo preclinical testing for safety and efficacy. 

It said it did so successfully after obtaining the Sars-CoV-2 gene, which is the virus causing the Covid-19 disease. 

Once this is completed, Medicago experts will discuss with the appropriate health agencies to initiate human trials of the vaccine by July/August.

In a statement, Medicago said it is also using its technology platform to develop antibodies against Sars-CoV-2 in collaboration with the Laval University’s infectious disease research centre, headed by Gary Kobinger, who helped develop a vaccine and treatment for Ebola. 

The Sars-CoV-2 antibodies could potentially be used to treat people infected by the virus. The research is being funded, in part, by the Canadian institutes for health research (CIHR).

The company is partially owned by Philip Morris International (PMI), and is part of the tobacco company’s new course based on science, technology and innovation.

Medicago chief executive, Bruce Clark, says the company has the technology to scale up its ability to develop a vaccine by July/August. Picture: Medicagowebsite

PMI acquired a stake in Medicago in 2013, and currently holds approximately 30% of the company’s shares. The majority of the company’s remaining shares are owned by Mitsubishi Tanade Pharma.

“The pace of our initial progress in Covid-19 is attributable to the capability of our plant-based platform, which is able to produce vaccine and antibody solutions to counteract this global public health threat,” Medicago chief executive, Bruce Clark said.

“The ability to produce a candidate vaccine within 20 days after obtaining the gene is a critical differentiator for our proven technology. This technology enables scale-up at unprecedented speed to potentially combat Covid-19,” Clark said. 

Gary Kobinger, professor in the Department of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases and the director of the infectious disease research centre at Laval University, said they were confident of success.

“The collaborative efforts established between the research team at Laval University and Medicago have been successful in developing unique antibodies against infectious diseases such as RSV and HMPV, and that gives us confidence for successful identification of therapeutic antibodies against Sars-CoV-2.”

“We are encouraged by the news announced by Medicago. The investment in the company is part of our bigger shift towards science, technology and innovation. 

"Our thoughts go out to all those who are being impacted by the disease and its consequences on our societies,” Philip Morris International said.

“We sincerely hope the very innovative work of Medicago will contribute to addressing the situation. We do not feel further comments would be appropriate in days like there.”

Medicago’s first product, a seasonal recombinant quadrivalent VLP vaccine for active immunisation against influenza, is currently under review by Health Canada following the completion of a robust safety and efficacy clinical programme involving more than 25,000 patients.

African News Agency 

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