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Canada becomes first country to authorize plant-based COVID-19 vaccine

Canada became the first country to authorize COVIFENZ, a plant-based COVID-19 vaccine for 18 plus citizens.

The news: Health Canada made its decision on scientific data shared by Medicago as part of their rolling submission that began in April 2021 under an Interim Order, and concluded with the filing of a New Drug Submission-CV.

  • Medicago, a biopharmaceutical company on February 24 had announced that Health Canada has granted approval for COVIFENZ®, COVID-19 vaccine, (plant-based virus-like particles [VLP], recombinant, adjuvanted).
  • This vaccine is indicated for active immunization to prevent coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID‑19) caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS‑CoV‑2) in individuals 18 to 64 years of age.

What they’re saying: “The approval of our COVID-19 vaccine is a significant milestone for Canada in the fight against the pandemic. We appreciate Health Canada’s timely review,” said Takashi Nagao, President and CEO at Medicago.

  • “We’re also grateful for the Government of Canada’s support in the development of this new vaccine, and we are manufacturing doses to start fulfilling its order,” he added.
  • Roger Connor, President of GSK Vaccines, added, “This first approval is an important milestone in our approach of pairing GSK’s well-established pandemic adjuvant with promising antigens to develop protein-based, refrigerator-stable COVID-19 vaccines to help protect people against COVID-19 disease. We look forward to working with Medicago to make the vaccine available in Canada and to progress further regulatory submissions.”

In addition: The Government of Canada has a contract with Medicago (the Marketing Authorization Holder) to supply the COVID-19 vaccine. Medicago is committed to fulfilling this order as soon as possible.

  • “As one of our government’s top priorities has been to reverse the 40-year decline faced by Canada’s biomanufacturing sector, we are pleased to see Medicago’s vaccine approval. It is a great milestone for Canada’s biotechnology sector and for homegrown innovation. We will continue to support companies that want to produce vaccines in Canada and join the growing national biomanufacturing sector.” said the Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry.
  • “Today is a great day for Medicago as COVIFENZ® becomes its first approved vaccine. I’d like to thank the Clinical Investigators involved in our trials as well as Medicago’s passionate and curious team of over 500 scientific experts and employees. Today only reinforces our commitment to using our technology to provide rapid responses to emerging global health challenges, and to advancing therapeutics against life-threatening diseases worldwide.” said Yosuke Kimura, Chief Scientific Officer at Medicago.
  • Medicago uses plants to grow non-infectious virus-like particles, which mimic the spike protein of the coronavirus. The particles are removed from plant leaves and purified. Then another ingredient — an immune-boosting chemical called an adjuvant made by British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline — is added to the shots.
  • Medicago also plans to test the shot as a booster dose among children, Reuters reported, as is preparing to study an Omicron-specific version of the vaccine.
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