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Technology Instrumental In Medicago’s Flu Vaccine Production

August 13, 2009

Medicago, JIC (John Innes Centre) and PBL (Plant Bioscience Limited) announced today that Medicago’s outstanding achievement in producing the H1 VLP antigen in only 14 days, as revealed in the Canadian company’s press release on 30th June 2009, was achieved using among other technologies, a technology invented by JIC researchers and which is licensed by PBL to Medicago

The CPMV-HT (Cowpea Mosaic Virus-HyperTranslatable) expression system was developed by Prof George Lomonossoff and Dr Frank Sainsbury at the John Innes Centre, UK using specific elements of comoviruses. It achieves extremely high levels of heterologous protein expression within a few days without the need for virus replication. It also has the benefit of not producing infectious viral particles and thus achieves complete bio-containment while speeding up the whole process of protein production. A patent application with inventors from the John Innes Centre has been filed by PBL, the technology transfer company of the John Innes Centre.

The CPMV-HT technology represents a step-change in speed and efficiency of manufacturing proteins in plants, and so is ideal for applications such as vaccine production as demonstrated by Medicago’s production of the new vaccine candidate for the influenza A (H1N1) virus, also known as swine flu. “It is extremely pleasing to see that our plant-based system has proved so useful for the rapid production of such an important vaccine candidate in a case where time is of the essence.” said Prof George Lomonossoff.

Medicago is a leading biotechnology company focused on the development, production and commercialization of protein-based vaccines using unique manufacturing systems developed from its expertise in the genetic engineering of plants.

“These recent results achieved by Medicago demonstrate again that they are an excellent partner to make use of this unique protein expression technology. We are delighted that the John Innes Centre’s first class science is used for delivering such rapid results in the production of important vaccines.” said Dr Jan Chojecki, Managing Director, PBL.

The John Innes Centre is an Institute of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).  BBSR Chief Executive, Professor Douglas Kell said: “It is great news that fundamental research funded by BBSRC has been translated into such a useful application. To have this application put to use for the benefit of worldwide health is a very satisfying outcome and shows the real value of investing in basic research in the early days so that we can have useful technologies further down the line.”

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Image CPMV-HT: infiltrating a leaf

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