Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) has awarded new funding to Medicago, a plant-based biopharmaceutical company, to develop two antibodies to fight the Sudan strain of the Ebola virus.
The effort builds on existing research by these organizations directed at the Ebola Zaire strain, responsible for the ongoing outbreak in West Africa.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the Ebola Sudan strain has previously been associated with large-scale outbreaks in Africa. The availability of an effective antibody would allow for an early intervention in case of a new outbreak involving the Sudan strain.
“Medicago will be using its technology and manufacturing system to collaborate with the Canadian government to provide a solution for the possible re-emergence of this devastating disease,” said Andy Sheldon, CEO of Medicago. “We are also proud to work on a Canadian solution that can be employed as a response to other biological threats that may impact national and international security in the future.
Medicago’s innovative technology uses plants as miniature factories that can quickly produce large quantities of vaccines or antibodies. This technology demonstrated its potential for responding to global pandemics when it produced candidate vaccines for H1N1 in 2009 and H7N9 in 2013 in just 19 days, compared to the several months required to produce vaccines using eggs.
Prior to this award, Medicago successfully completed the recent contract signed with the U.S. Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) to explore an alternate production method for Ebola antibodies against the Zaire strain.