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Biotech, Pharma Companies to Collaborate on New Vaccines

Rotavirus, microscopic view (

Rotavirus (

Medicago Inc. in Quebec City, Canada and Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma Corp. in Osaka, Japan have agreed to develop and commercialize at least three new vaccines based on Medicago’s technology. The first part of the deal is expected to provide Medicago with up to $C33 million ($US 33 milion) in revenues.

The partnership will give Mitsubishi Tanabe rights to Medicago’s simulated virus technology it calls virus-like particles (VLPs) that need only the genetic sequence of the virus not an actual virus sample required by current vaccine processes. VLPs are made of protein shells overlayed with small pieces of the proteins relevant to controlling the target disease.

VLPs are made to look like a virus, which lets them be recognized by the body’s immune system, but they do not have the core genetic material, making them non-infectious and unable to replicate. Medicago says using VLPs designed for influenza, for example, make it possible to create a vaccine that exactly matches specific pandemic strains in circulation and offer cross-protection against other sub-types of influenza.

The companies will first develop VLPs targeting rotavirus, a common cause of severe diarrhea in infants and young children. WHO estimates rotaviruses cause about 527,000 each year, with more than 85 percent of these deaths in Africa and Asia, and over 2 million hospitalizations each year from pronounced dehydration.

Under the agreement, Mitsubishi Tanabe will have first licensing rights to a VLP designed for rotavirus, and assume global development, regulatory, and commercialization responsibilities for vaccines that result from it. Medicago will receive an upfront payment of $C3 million to begin the initial research on a rotavirus VLP. Medicago will also be eligible to receive up to $C30 million in subsequent milestone payments as well as royalties on future sales of a rotavirus vaccine product.

The companies say work on a rotavirus vaccine target will begin immediately, with additional disease targets to be selected at a later date.

Read more: Patent Issued for Protein-Engineered Flu Vaccine Technology

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