RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, NC – Vaccine developer Medicago USA has won a $21 million Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency grant to develop a 90,000 square foot facility in Research Triangle Park to make vaccines from tobacco plants and virus-like-particles (VLPs). The $42 million project will demonstrate the company’s ability to make 10 million doses of flu vaccine a month.
Eventually, the project will create hundreds of jobs.
This DARPA project is an accelerated and integrated effort to deliver effective production of pandemic influenza in the United States. The Accelerated Manufacture of Pharmaceuticals (AMP) program seeks to identify new ways to produce large amounts of high quality vaccine protein in less than 3 months in response to emerging and novel biologic threats.
Current methods of making flu vaccine from eggs is time-consuming and must be started well in advance of the flu season with researchers essentially guessing which strains will be active.
Rapid production possible
During the recent H1N1 influenza outbreak, Medicago’s rapid plant-based VLP vaccine technology was able to successfully develop a vaccine candidate in less than a month after identifying the H1N1 strain and is therefore one of the few technologies that can provide a solution in the case of a pandemic.
Andy Sheldon, President and CEO of Medicago, said, “This DARPA funding is also perfectly in line with our development plan for both our pandemic and seasonal influenza products as we will now have a US facility ready to participate in the $7 billion pandemic and seasonal influenza markets.
In addition, our U.S. facility will provide us enhanced access to the various grant programs in the U.S.A. and we will be ready to take part in these additional funding opportunities.”
Hundreds of jobs coming
“It’s vitally important to our Homeland Security that we have a robust domestic vaccine supply, and this facility will add to our production capacity helping mitigate future threats,” said Congressman David Price.
“Medicago’s facility will ultimately bring hundreds of good paying jobs to the region, and DARPA’s investment in this project is another significant contribution to local recovery efforts. This is a welcome confirmation that the Triangle continues to lead the way delivering innovative high-tech products and creating the jobs that will power a 21st Century economy.”
Rep. Price is the Chairman of the House Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee.
Medicago USA Inc. is a wholly owned subsidiary of Quebec-based Medicago Inc. (TSX: MDG).
The strategic collaboration is a $42 million project in which DARPA contributes $21 million, Medicago $7.5 million and Alexandria Real Estate Equities Inc. (‘Alexandria’) $13.5 million.
Alexandria Real Estate Equities is the largest owner and leading provider of high-quality environmentally sustainable real estate, technical infrastructure, and services to the broad and diverse life science industry focused in the leading life science clusters
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