Under the agreement, Japanese-based Mitsubishi will put up all funding for the research and development (R&D) of at least three new virus-like particle (VLP) vaccines in exchange for licensing rights.
Work will begin immediately on the first development – a vaccine target which will imitate Rotavirus. The disease is the most common cause of severe diarrhoea in infants with more than 500,000 deaths annually, mostly in Asia and Africa.
Mitsubishi will gain the licensing and development rights for the resulting therapy, whilst Medicago will receive up to $33m in upfront payments as well as royalties for the product. A spokesperson for the firm said: “Additional targets under this master agreement are to be selected by the parties at a later date.”
The news follows the opening of Medicago’s 97,000 sq ft vaccine plant in North Carolina, US, last November. The plant currently makes 120m doses of pandemic flu vaccine per year.
Andy Sheldon, President and CEO of Medicago said the deal “demonstrates the value that pharmaceutical companies place on new technology production platforms that have the potential to improve efficacy, cost and speed of production.”
VP of business development Frederic Ors added the subsequent vaccines would have “significant market potential.”
Is faux the way to go?
VLPs mimic the structure of a virus to prompt T and B cell immune response in the body. Medicago says the platform is safer than those which use attenuated viruses, which can reproducein vivo.
And it seems the partnership reflects an emerging industry demand for VLP vaccines.
Drugsmaker Novovax has recently inked alliances with Cadila, and LG to open VLP production facilities in India and Korea. The biz also signed a lease for a 74,000 sq ft facility in Maryland, US.