The development of a vaccine anti-COVID-19 is progressing in leaps and bounds in Medicago. In addition to the beginning of human testing in a few days, the Quebec-based company is allied with the giant GSK, which enables us to consider a production up to 100 million doses next year.
According to the agreement unveiled Tuesday, the Company will be able to use an adjuvant belonging to the british multinational corporation in the composition of its vaccine.
The adjuvant “is a bit like a booster for the immune system”, illustrates Nathalie Landry, vice-president for scientific affairs and medical Medicago. It should allow the use of less antigen to produce the vaccine, while ensuring its effectiveness. It would thus be possible to manufacture more doses – between five and ten times more – and immunize more people, a crucial element in the current context.
Assuming that the next stages of development will be conclusive, the new partners aim at the availability of the vaccine in the first half of 2021 and the production of 100 million doses by the end of this year.
Of the countries concerned
Already, the Company is in discussion with several countries, including Canada, to ensure their doses. “But there is nothing signed at this time”, said Ms. Landry.
In preclinical studies on mice, the addition in the recipe of this adjuvant has been associated with a rate of “high” of neutralizing antibodies, supports the quebec company.
Medicago is waiting for the green light from the regulatory authorities to begin human testing. A first subject could receive the vaccine candidate by mid-July. “This is a beautiful moment. We are trying to do in 18 months what normally takes five to six years,” said Ms. Landry.
The clinical trials of phase 1 will take place in Montreal and Quebec, with 180 volunteers, adults 18 to 55 years of age. The objective will be to ensure that the vaccine is safe and that it actually promotes an immune defense against the COVID-19 in humans. Three different doses of antigen to be tested, with and without adjuvant.
The first results could be known in September, after which the schedule calls for the phase 2 of the tests from the month of October to study on about 1000 volunteers, the effect of the vaccine in the 55 years and over, among other things. Finally, phase 3 could begin in December or in January next with between 10 000 and 20 000 participants.
Medicago uses a platform-based production plants to generate particles that mimic the coronavirus that causes the COVID-19, without be infectious. As the cost of production is still unknown, the company argues that it is too early to specify the sale price of the vaccine and whether it will be distributed at cost price, as is committed to that, in Europe, the company AstraZeneca, which is developing its own vaccine with the University of Oxford.
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