Plant-based antibodies to be developed in mini-factories to fight the Sudan strain of the Ebola virus
Medicago, a Canadian company that develops and produces plant-based therapeutics and vaccines, has been awarded a contract by the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) to develop two antibodies to fight the Sudan strain of the Ebola virus.
In producing this technology, Medicago will demonstrate Canada’s ability to manufacture monoclonal antibodies as part of emergency response efforts. The Canadian government and Medicago are now working on antibodies for the Sudan strain, building on existing work directed at the Zaire strain, which is responsible for the ongoing outbreak in West Africa.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the Ebola Sudan strain has previously been associated with large-scale outbreaks in Africa. The availability of an effective antibody would allow for early intervention should a new outbreak occur.
‘Medicago will be using its technology and manufacturing system to collaborate with the Canadian government to provide a solution for the possible re-emergence of this devastating disease,’ said Andy Sheldon, CEO of Medicago. ‘We are also proud to work on a Canadian solution that can be employed as a response to other biological threats that may impact national and international security in the future.’
Medicago's innovative technology uses plants as miniature factories to produce large quantities of vaccines or antibodies. The technology demonstrated its potential to respond to global pandemics when it produced candidate vaccines for H1N1 in 2009 and H7N9 in 2013 in just 19 days, compared with the several months required to produce vaccines using eggs.
The company, which recently announced an important expansion of its Quebec City facilities in May 2015, can rapidly produce anti-Ebola antibodies with high yields. Prior to this award, Medicago successfully completed a recently signed contract with the US government to explore an alternate production method for Ebola antibodies against the Zaire strain.