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Canadians may soon have faster access to pandemic and seasonal influenza vaccines, thanks to an investment by the Government of Canada to Medicago Inc., a Quebec business. The announcement was made by Sylvie Boucher, Member of Parliament for Beauport-Limoilou, on behalf of the Honourable Gary Goodyear, Minister of State (Science and Technology).
"Our government is investing in science and technology to create good jobs, strengthen the economy and improve Canadians' quality of life," said MP Boucher. "This investment has helped develop a new technology to speed up production of vaccines that are critical for the health and safety of Canadians."
Since initially receiving funding in 2001, Medicago Inc. has most recently received $279,712 from the National Research Council of Canada's Industrial Research Assistance Program to continue the development of their technology that could deliver a vaccine for testing in less than a month after the identification and reception of genetic sequences from a pandemic strain. This could result in populations being vaccinated before a pandemic strikes and in supplying the world quickly with large volumes of vaccine antigens.
A Canadian Innovation Leader Certificate was also presented to Medicago Inc. to highlight its success as an innovative Canadian firm that has successfully linked scientific research to commercialization, jobs and economic growth.
"NRC-IRAP's continued support has been instrumental for the expansion of our products and for the development of technology aiming to deliver effective and affordable vaccines," said Andy Sheldon, President and CEO of Medicago. "Our relationship with the National Research Council of Canada has helped us move forward and we have benefited from its continued guidance and contributions."
Medicago Inc. was founded in 1999 and employs approximately 90 people. The company is developing vaccines based on two proprietary technologies: its plant-based Proficia manufacturing technology and its Virus-Like Particles (VLPs). Proficia is a robust vaccine and antibody production system based on protein expression in plant leaves. This technology has the potential to offer speed and cost advantages over traditional egg-based and cell production systems. Medicago's VLPs resemble a virus, allowing them to be recognized readily by the immune system, however, they lack the core genetic material, making them non-infectious and unable to replicate. The company is currently using tobacco leaves to produce pandemic and seasonal influenza VLP vaccines.
About National Research Council of Canada and its Industrial Research Assistance Program
The Industrial Research Assistance Program provides a range of both technical and business-oriented advisory services along with necessary financial support to qualified innovative small and medium-sized enterprises in Canada.
The program is delivered by a field staff of 240 professionals in more than 100 communities across Canada. The National Research Council of Canada is committed to working with small and medium-sized enterprises while they realize their full potential, turning knowledge and innovation into strategic opportunities, jobs and prosperity for all Canadians.