Canadian drugmaker says COVID-19 vaccine 71% effective against range of variants

Nathalie Charland, Medicago's senior director, discusses the results of the Phase 3 clinical trial of its Canadian-made vaccine. If approved, it would be the first made-in-Canada COVID vaccine and the world's first plant-based vaccine for human use.

By Michael Ranger

A Canadian-made COVID-19 vaccine is showing strong efficacy in its latest trial.

Quebec-based biotech company Medicago, along with British-American pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), say the Phase 3 clinical trial showed its Canadian-made vaccine candidate is 71 per cent effective against a range of COVID variants. When it comes to the Delta variant specifically, the efficacy rate increased to just over 75 per cent.

“Our clinical efficacy trial was performant to an environment that was 100 per cent variants,” says Natalie Charland, Senior Director of Scientific & Medical Affairs at Medicago, speaking to Breakfast Television on Tuesday.

“It’s not like the first vaccine rollout where they had only the ancestral strain circulating. We had not ancestral strain at all.”

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The Omicron variant was not circulating during the study, which began back in March and involved 24,000 people aged 18 and older across six countries. Charland says there are plans to test the vaccine against the new variant moving forward.

“We are confident that it will have some type of protection, but of course we have to test that.”

The drugmaker says there were no serious adverse reactions reported in the vaccine group during the trial.

“The results of our clinical trials show the power of plant-based vaccine manufacturing technology,” said Medicago’s CEO and President Takashi Nagao in a statement. “If approved, we will be contributing to the world’s fight against the COVID-19 pandemic with the world’s first plant-based vaccine for use in humans.”

If approved, this would be the first made-in-Canada COVID-19 vaccine and the world’s first plant-based vaccine for human use.

Medicago says they intend to submit the vaccine for approval to Health Canada imminently, as part of its rolling submission. Pending approval by Health Canada, they also plan to submit full data to the World Health Organization (WHO) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the upcoming months.

“The global COVID-19 pandemic is continuing to show new facets with the current dominance of the Delta variant, upcoming Omicron, and other variants likely to follow,” said Thomas Breuer, GSK’s Chief Global Health Officer and COVID-19 vaccine lead.

“The combination of GSK’s established pandemic adjuvant with Medicago’s plant-based vaccine technology has significant potential to be an effective, refrigerator-stable option to help protect people against SARS-CoV-2.”

Medicago says it hopes its vaccine will be used as a booster or in places that are critically unprotected from COVID-19.

“We hope the review process will go swiftly and smoothly so we can get an approval. hopefully early next year,” said Charland.

Health Canada has been reviewing the data throughout its clinical trials — the department has prioritized its reviews of all COVID-19 vaccines and treatments, and has previously said it would work quickly and thoroughly on new drug applications that could help in fighting the pandemic.

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