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Medicago, PMP ink licensing agreement
QUEBEC CITY—Biopharmaceutical company Medicago Inc. has inked a licensing agreement with Philip Morris Products SA (PMP), a subsidiary of Philip Morris International Inc. focused on vaccines in China.
Per the terms of the agreement, Medicago will grant PMP an exclusive license for the development, commercialization and manufacture of Medicago's pandemic and seasonal influenza vaccines for China. PMP will pay Medicago $4.5 million upfront, and Medicago is also eligible to receive development milestone payments of up to $7.5 million, as well as royalties on future sales of influenza vaccines by PMP in China that make use of Medicago technologies.
"We look forward to working closely with PMP to develop our pandemic and seasonal influenza vaccine candidates in the coming years," Andy Sheldon, CEO of Medicago, said in a press release. "Strengthening our VLP platform and international expansion to emerging markets like China is a key component of our growth strategy, and this partnership represents an important milestone in achieving this strategy."
The companies have also signed a separate agreement, in which Medicago has licensed a portfolio of plant-based protein development technologies from PMP in exchange for signing an exclusive, worldwide licensing agreement. The technologies consist of tools and methods for the production of proteins in plants, and are expected to be a complement to Medicago's current patent portfolio. Medicago will make a payment of $700,000 to PMP, and the agreement features no additional milestone payments. PMP will be eligible to receive royalties on the future sales of any Medicago products that result and use the licensed PMP technologies.
Philip Morris Investments B.V., a subsidiary of Philip Morris International, currently holds 98,608,800 shares of Medicago common stock, which equates to roughly 40 percent of Medicago's issued and outstanding common shares. As a result, PMP, which is also a subsidiary of Philip Morris International, is considered a related party of Medicago, making the aforementioned transactions "related party transaction." All transactions have been approved by Medicago's board of directors.
Medicago's approach in vaccine development is based on proprietary manufacturing technologies and Virus-Life Particles (VLPs). Medicago notes on its website that VLPs "consist of protein shells studded with short strands of the proteins specific to whatever disease the vaccine is intended to control. VLPs are made to look like a virus, allowing them to be recognized readily by the body's immune system, however, they lack the core genetic material, making them non-infectious and unable to replicate." Unlike other vaccines, VLP-based vaccines require only the genetic sequence of the virus, rather than an actual sample. VLPs are also more effective in activating key aspects of immune response for immune stimulation and immunological memory.
Medicago has initiated a Phase IIa clinical trial for a quadrivalent seasonal flu vaccine, and expects to see interim data by the first quarter of next year. In addition, the company announced on Aug. 16 the receipt of U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorization for a Phase I clinical trial of an H5N1 VLP vaccine with GLA adjuvant, a trial that will be performed in partnership with the Infectious Disease Research Institute. Medicago is also working on a rabies vaccine, a rotavirus vaccine in alliance with Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma and at least two other vaccine candidates.