Medicago: Growing Vaccines in the Tobacco Plant

Tuesday, March 13, 2012 - 6:30pm

Presented by Team Inno5: Xin Hang, Jessica Morden, Faizan Rahim, Jonathan Satawsky, Olga Vorobyova

Although seasonal influenza is sometimes overlooked, it is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States and the leading cause of death in children ages 1 to 4 years. Every year, the United States incurs $1 billion in economic and health care costs. However, many of these deaths could be avoided by eliminating the shortages and delays in the delivery of seasonal influenza vaccines. Although the vaccine market represents an unmet health care need, the number of manufacturers is limited since vaccine production involves high investment costs for research and development, and for production facilities. Vaccines are currently manufactured in fertilized chicken eggs, which is further limited by the egg supply and incubation times. The egg-based manufacturing process takes about 6 months from the strain release, making it difficult to meet the market demand in time. Medicago has developed a novel vaccine manufacturing method, producing virus-like particles (VLPs) in the tobacco family plant Nicotiana. This production process is at least ten times cheaper and several months shorter than the traditional egg-based method, which would allow it to overcome the current supply shortages and save thousands of lives. The challenge is that FDA has yet to approve a non-egg based influenza vaccine. Medicago's pandemic vaccine has been validated in phase II trials receiving funding from the US Department of Defence to continue development. However, their seasonal vaccine is ever earlier in the development process, and follows a more stringent regulatory pathway, which makes its path to market unclear. This presentation will introduce a strategy to overcome the regulatory difficulties posed by the seasonal influenza vaccine approval and accelerate Medicago’s access to market.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012, 6:30-7:30pm, Instructional Centre, Room 335. Also available via webcast. Open to the public.

Team Inno 5

The Master of Biotechnology Program would like to thank AstraZeneca Canada Inc. for their continued support of this seminar series.