Medico is a biopharmaceutical company manufacturing plat-based vaccines and therapeutics that is headquartered in Quebec City, Quebec and was founded in 1999. Medicago, established based on research at Agriculture Canada and Laval University, is named after the Latin word for alfalfa, the first plant the company worked on. Medicago is 40% owned by the cigarette company, Philip Morris, and 60% of Medicago’s shares were purchased by Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma in 2013.
Medicago developed technology for producing vaccines, antibodies, protein-based products and therapeutic proteins inside plants, called Proficia. Medicago developed a modified version of the platform called VLP Express for drug discovery. Their system introduces recombinant DNA into the bacteria Agrobacterium tumefaciens, which are introduced into tobacco leaves where they infect surrounding cells and transfer the recombinant DNA, called transfer DNA (T-DNA) to the plant nucleus. Without integrating into the plant genome, the T-DNA is transcribed and translated, producing the encoded protein. After 11 days leaves are harvested and proteins are extracted and purified to produce clinical-grade pharmaceutical ingredients.
Medicago uses Nicotiana benthamiana, a tobacco species that naturally makes proteins at high speed. Whereas a vaccine produced using eggs is a six-month process, Medicago’s plant production cycle takes about six weeks. The plants produce virus-like particles that resemble the flu virus and are claimed to elicit an immune response against the flu. As of 2018 their flu vaccine was in phase 3 clinical trials.
Medicago USA is a wholly-owned subsidiary based in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina and partnered with the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which has a manufacturing facility that produces vaccines for clinical studies.
Medicago’s candidate products include H5N1 pandemic influenza VLP vaccine, seasonal influenza and H1N1 vaccines. Products in development include Rotavirus vaccine in alliance with Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma Corporation and an Ebola prevention vaccine in collaboration with DARPA. Medicago’s seasonal recombinant quadrivalent VLP vaccine for influenza is under review by Health Canada and has completed a safety and efficacy clinical program with more than 25,000 patients.
Medicago is developing both a vaccine and potential treatment of COVID-19. The company produced a virus-like particle (VLP) of the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, which mimics the shape and dimensions of the virus so that the body can recognize and create an immune response. VLPs activate both arms of the immune system, the antibody and cell-mediated responses. After preclinical testing, clinical trials for the vaccine are expected in July or August 2020. Medicago is also developing antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 in collaboration with the Laval University Infectious Disease Research Centre, which could potentially be used to treat people already infected with the virus. Medicago has received $7 million from the Quebec provincial government for its COVID-19 vaccine development.
On March 1, 2010 Medicago received a research grant worth $300,000 from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).
On May 13, 2010 Medicago completed a venture capital funding round with $10 million in funding from Yorkville Advisors.
On September 27, 2011 Medicago completed a private equity round with $25 million in funding from Fonds De Solidarite FTQ, CTI Life Sciences Fund, and AgChecm Venture Fund.
On December 12, 2012 Medicago received $415,000 in financial support from the Quebec Government and Quebec City for Innovative Regional Project.
Medicago to build $245M production facility in Quebec City