Flu vaccine firmly planted?

Trying to stay a step ahead of the H5N1 influenza virus, Canadian biotech company Medicago announced a breakthrough

Randall C Willis
QUEBEC CITY—Trying to stay a step ahead of the H5N1 influenza virus, Canadian biotech company Medicago announced a breakthrough in the production of a vaccine candidate for the avian disease using its proprietary plant-made virus-like particle (VLP) technology. According to company President and CEO Andy Sheldon, the new technology may allow the company to deliver VLP vaccine for testing within a month of the identification of new viral strains.
 
"VLPs offer a promising avenue for the development of effective vaccines for diseases such as the constantly evolving H5N1 avian influenza," he says. "Our unique ability to rapidly deliver vaccines that can protect against the multiple variations of viruses will, in our opinion, give our technology a critical advantage over traditional egg-based and cell culture technologies."
 
Unlike traditional viral vaccines, which use "killed" or mutated virus particles to prompt an immunological response, VLPs only use the outer shell of the virus particle, eliminating the nucleic acid component and its inherent risk of unintended infection. The company recently initiated a preclinical study of its H5N1 VLP and expects to publish its preliminary findings in the coming weeks.

Randall C Willis

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