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Medicago, MTPC join forces in vaccine agreement
by Kelsey Kaustinen  |  Email the author


QUEBEC CITY—Biopharmaceutical company Medicago Inc., which specializes in the development of vaccines based on proprietary manufacturing technologies and Virus-Like Particles (VLPs), has announced a strategic alliance with Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma Corporation (MTPC) via the execution of a Master Research Collaboration Agreement. The partnership will focus on developing and commercializing at least three new vaccines, with MTPC responsible for funding all research and development costs. In exchange for granting licensing rights, Medicago will be eligible to upfront and milestone payments, in addition to royalties on each product to result from the agreement.  
"I am proud to announce this strategic alliance with Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma for the development of several new vaccines. It vividly demonstrates the value that pharmaceutical companies place on new technology production platforms that have the potential to improve efficacy, cost and speed of production," Andy Sheldon, President and CEO of Medicago, said in a press release. "This collaboration leverages the significant strengths of our two companies towards a shared vision that can positively impact vaccine development and benefit patients worldwide."
Per the terms of this agreement, which will aim to develop a Rotavirus Like Particle vaccine target, MTPC will have the option of licensing the RLP vaccine target and assuming global development, regulatory and commercialization responsibilities. In return, Medicago stands to receive up to C$33 million in upfront and milesonte payments, as well as royalties on future sales. MTPC will pay Medicago C$3 million upfront to begin initial research.
"We are excited to be forming this strategic alliance with Medicago using their innovative, plant-based VLP technologies. Our research collaboration aims to create new and better vaccines that will improve the health of people around the world," Dr. Michihiro Tsuchiya, President and Chief Executive Officer of MTPC, said in a press release.
Rotavirus ranks as the most common cause of severe diarrhea in infants and young children worldwide, with a global incidence of rotavirus currently estimated at 125 million cases annually. In addition, the virus is responsbiel for more than 500,000 deaths annually, with over 85 percent of those occurring in Africa and Asia. children under the age of five are most at risk. Vaccines against rotavirus gastroenteritis are available and provide the most impact when it comes to reducing severe disease incidence, but limited access to these vaccines due to economic issues is a primary concern in developing countries.  
VLPs "consist of  protein shells studded with short strands of the proteins specific to whatever disease the vaccine is intended to control," according to Medicago's website. The VLPs are designed to look like a virus, which allows them to be recognized by an individual's immune system, but since they lack the core genetic material, they are non-infectious and incapable of replicating. While current influenza vaccines are manufactured with an inactivated virus, VLP-based vaccines don't require a sample of the virus, but merely the genetic sequence. In addition, VLPs "more effectively activate key aspects of the immune response to achieve potent immune stimulation and to provide immunological memory. VLP-based vaccines have also shown to provide protection against different strains of a virus other than those for which the vaccine was formulated."      
SOURCE: Medicago press release
Code: E03061201



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