Operation of the current good manufacturing practice (cGMP) facility will allow Medicago to scale up and automate production of its virus-like particle (VLP) vaccines. When fully operational the facility will produce 10m doses of influenza vaccine a day, with potential for future expansions.
This capacity could be used in the event of a pandemic. During the H1N1 outbreak Medicago demonstrated its plant-based VLP technology can develop a vaccine candidate in under a month, making it a potentially useful tool in a pandemic.
Recognising this potential, the US Department of Defense is partly funding the project. "It is vitally important to our Homeland Security that we have a robust domestic vaccine supply”, said David Price, a North Carolina Congressman.
In addition to helping the US mitigate future threats, the facility will “ultimately bring hundreds of good paying jobs to the region” and be “another significant contribution to local recovery efforts”, said Price.
For Medicago, the facility will help validate its VLP technology and strengthen its position in the market for pandemic and seasonal vaccines. Operating a US plant will also increase the number of grants and funding opportunities that are open to Medicago.
The project is due to cost $42m. This is made up of a $21m grant from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), $7.5m from Medicago and $13.5m from Alexandria Real Estate Equities.
"We are delighted to be working with Alexandria as they are a leader in their field and it allows us to reduce the upfront capital required for the building of our new US commercial grade facility", said Andy Sheldon, president and CEO of Medicago.