Canadian company announces possible coronavirus vaccine candidate
CANADA- Medicago, a Quebec-based biopharmaceutical company, said it has produced a virus-like particle of the novel coronavirus, a first step to producing a vaccine.
The isolated particle will now undergo pre-clinical safety and efficacy.
Medicago said it could begin human trials as soon as July or August if approved by Health Canada and other agencies.
If the vaccine is successful, it could be available to the wider public by November 2021, CEO Bruce Clark said.
“These timelines are heavily reliant on what will give the regulators enough comfort to say this product is ready to go into human testing and then, secondly, for use in the broader public,” he said. “Our best guess right now is 18 months.”
Within just 20 days of obtaining the gene of the virus, Medicago researchers were able to produce a candidate vaccine, Clark said.
If given the green light, they could produce as many as 10 million doses per month out of their plant in North Carolina. The company currently has the resources to create about two million doses per month out of its plant in Quebec, according to Clark.
The biopharmaceutical company said they used a plant-based platform to grow vaccine proteins rather than chicken embryos, allowing for them to make the vaccine candidate quickly.
“We have a [seasonal flu vaccine] that is currently under review with Health Canada, and the [technology] we are using for this COVID vaccine is exactly the same, which has proven to be efficacious,” Clark explained.
The company’s ability to grow virus-like particles in plants has helped it produce vaccines in the past against influenza, including a vaccine candidate against H1N1 in 2009, Canada Research Chair Dawn Bowdish said.
“A virus-like particle looks like the outside of a virus but doesn’t have any of the genetic material on the inside,” said Bowdish, who also sits on the scientific advisory board of Medicago. “It doesn’t cause infection but looks really similar from your immune system’s perspective.”
Medical researchers around the world continue to race to develop a vaccine for COVID-19.
Medicago is also working to develop antibodies against SARS-CoV-2, the pathogen that causes COVID-19, in collaboration with Dr. Gary Kobinger, who helped develop the vaccine and treatment for Ebola.
Bowdish warns that most vaccine trials fail and in 17 years there was never a vaccine fully developed for the SARS outbreak.
"It’s unlikely there will be a miracle drug,” she said. “But Canada has had some incredible successes creating vaccines very quickly. We had huge success with the Ebola virus.”
Globally, roughly 20 coronavirus vaccine candidates are being developed by research institutes and drug-makers, including America’s Johnson & Johnson and France’s Sanofi SA, according to Reuters.
Two pharmaceutical companies in the U.S. are getting close to human testing.
Biotechnology company Moderna Inc. has announced plans to start a trial of a vaccine candidate on 45 people in Seattle this month. Testing on animals will proceed simultaneously with human trials, the NIH told Reuters.
Inovio Pharmaceuticals Inc., an immunotherapy company, is working with a company in China to develop a vaccine and expects to start human clinical trials in 30 U.S. volunteers in April.
Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told the U.S. House Oversight and Reform Committee on Thursday that human trials for a vaccine would be possible “within a few weeks.”
“I want to make sure people understand, and I’ve said that over and over again, that does not mean we have a vaccine that we can use,” he said. “We mean it’s record time to get it tested. It’s going to take a year to a year and a half to really know if it works," Fauci said.