The maker of the leading COVID vaccine developed in Canada has released promising data from its third phase of clinical trials – suggesting a high level of efficacy against most variants of the coronavirus – and says a final application will be submitted to Health Canada in A few days.
According to a statement from Quebec vaccine maker Medicago, which includes data that has not yet been reviewed by other scientists, the two-dose vaccine has had a 71 percent success rate against infection with all variants studied, and 75 percent against Delta, the variant that currently dominates in the world.
However, a sign of the speed with which the virus is evolving, the tests were carried out before the emergence of Omicron.
The company says there were no serious side effects and the side effects were generally mild to moderate.
Despite the success of the already authorized doses of Pfizer and Moderna, the vaccine race is not over. If given the green light by Health Canada, the herbal dose would be the fifth shot to be cleared by the federal regulator, but the first to be developed by a Canadian company.
As the battle against the pandemic continues, company executives hope their shot will be another addition to the arsenal. The shot is relatively quick to produce and can be stored at normal refrigerator temperatures, just like the easy-to-carry AstraZeneca dose.
But the news also shows Canada’s growing capacity to manufacture vaccines for itself, said Nicolas Petit, vice president of business operations at Medicago.
“When the pandemic started, it was kind of a panic,” he says. “We knew we didn’t have enough capacity in Canada, we didn’t know if we would be able to import” vaccines.
The federal government has since invested significant public funds to address this problem. Last fall, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced $ 173 million to help launch Medicago’s vaccine into the development process and build a large-scale vaccine production facility in Quebec.
Medicago, a relatively small pharmaceutical company with around 500 employees, also signed an advance purchase agreement with the government. Canada will purchase at least 20 million doses, with the option of adding more, for a total of 76 million doses.
The first shots would be available in Canada, Petit said.
As demand for adult doses has slowed across the country now that the majority of people have rolled up their sleeves, Petit says there is still demand for some vaccines and Canada has also pledged to donate some. of its own doses purchased from other countries. .
The company expects a clearance decision by January. In an email, a spokesperson for Health Canada – writing ahead of the official release of the new data – said there was no set timeline.
Medicago’s vaccine uses a different strategy from those currently on the market for COVID, a strategy he has been working on for two decades.
The company uses a cousin of a tobacco plant – a plant that cannot be smoked, it previously noted – to rapidly grow what is called a “virus-like particle”, which mimics the form of the coronavirus and causes your body to mount an immune response.
The company has teamed up with pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKlein, which has added its adjuvant to the vaccine. Adjuvant is a substance that makes the vaccine more potent and potentially means that each injection can use a lower dose.
The vaccines, which are given in two injections, 21 days apart, would be mainly manufactured in North Carolina until the Quebec facility goes online – it is expected to be operational by the end of 2024 – although the last step of pouring them into vials, called “fill and finish”, would be done in Montreal from the start.
Vaccine makers who are still working on their version say having a mix of different types of vaccines gives the world a better chance of stopping the pandemic.
Being part of a secondary wave of vaccine candidates has been a mixed blessing, says Petit – in recent months, the trial has struggled to recruit volunteers in places like Canada and the United States, places where Licensed vaccines were already widely available, and had to expand testing sites in Latin America.
The vaccine has been tested on 24,000 adult volunteers in six countries, including Canada, where most of the 1,300 people have volunteered to help test the dose for safety and effectiveness. While most vaccine makers have opted for testing sites with more viral spread, Medicago has made sure to do testing in Canada.
(Some people received the candidate vaccine while others received a placebo, although the company previously said that all placebo participants will receive the vaccine if it is found to be effective.)
But entering clinical trials months after some of the early candidates means the Medicago vaccine candidate faces new viral variants, including Delta, which is currently dominant globally.
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