Canada approves world’s first plant-based Covid-19 vaccine

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  • Regulators in Canada this week approved Covifenz, the world’s first Covid-19 vaccine developed using plant-protein technology. Canadian biopharma company Medicago developed the vaccine.
  • In Covifenz, plant-derived, non-infectious particles mimic the virus while an adjuvant included in the shot and developed by vaccine giant GlaxoSmithKline helps boost the immune system response.
  • The two-shot dose, approved for adults 18 to 64 years, was found to be 71% effective in clinical trials and showed efficacy against Delta and Gamma variants.

Why it matters

There’s significant potential for plant-protein technologies in the production of vaccines, particularly when it comes to speeding up production times and staving off infectious disease.

Nathalie Charland, Medicago’s senior director of scientific and medical affairs, summed it up nicely when she recently told the journal Nature“Compared to alternative production systems [such as cell- or egg-based proteins], our proprietary plant-based manufacturing platform has many advantages, including faster lead time, scalability and versatility.”

This streamlined production process could enable the world to respond faster to infectious disease in the future. Given some research states that we’re in danger of incubating the next pandemic, speed seems a critical factor to leverage. Faster response times could in theory contain health threats and outbreaks before they become global pandemics.

Covifenz is the sixth Covid-19 vaccine to be approved in Canada. The country signed a deal to buy 20 million doses of Medicago’s vaccine in October and has the option to purchase 56 million more.

Medicago said it also plans to study a version of its vaccine tailored to the Omicron variant, which was not widespread during studies for Covifenz.

“While additional confirmatory data are needed, preliminary and exploratory data shows that Covifenz produces neutralizing antibodies against the Omicron variant,” Health Canada said in a statement.

Go to Publisher: AFN
Author: Jennifer Marston