Collaborative project of more than $1.2 million using artificial intelligence to optimize the production of vaccines, announced by CQDM and Medicago R&D

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Quebec City, Quebec, May 5th, 2020 – The biopharmaceutical research consortium CQDM and Medicago R&D  are proud to announce today the funding of a research project that will allow the Quebec City-based company to increase the competitiveness of its vaccine production platform and confirm its position as leader in the biopharmaceutical industry in Canada. Through CQDM, the Ministry of Economy and Innovation of Quebec is providing a grant of $500,000 for the implementation of this three-year initiative.

“The health crisis resulting from COVID-19 highlights the importance of producing vaccines to ensure the protection and health of the population. The Quebec Government feels that it’s more important than ever to support this research project, which will give Medicago, a key player in the biopharmaceutical industry, the means to increase its productivity by leveraging artificial intelligence. In doing so, we are also strengthening Québec’s position as world-class vaccine manufacturing hub,” noted Pierre Fitzgibbon, Minister of the Economy and Innovation.

The project is led by the team of Professor Jacques Corbeil, researcher at the Department of Molecular Medicine at the CHU de Québec-Laval University, and carried out in close collaboration with Medicago R&D. Professor Corbeil is internationally renowned for his expertise in the interface of medicine and machine learning approaches. He holds the tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Medical Genomics.

“It is important to mention that this project was born out of a common desire to improve vaccine production in order to better protect the health of Canadians. This strong support is particularly timely to lead our fight against the emerging diseases we face today, such as COVID-19 right now”, said Professor Corbeil.

Medicago’s technology uses non-transgenic plants as miniature factories to efficiently produce vaccines and therapeutic proteins. This project will allow the company to benefit from the latest advances in the field of artificial intelligence to explore a new angle of analysis of its production parameters. The results of the project should increase the productivity of the company and will strengthen Medicago’s ability to respond effectively to sudden and large demand, in such cases like pandemics. On March 12, Medicago reported having successfully produced virus-like particles (VLP) of coronavirus only 20 days after receiving the virus gene, thus having a viable vaccine candidate against COVID-19.

“Clearly, artificial intelligence will play a major role in the business of tomorrow. To this effect, and in order to strengthen our position as leader in biotechnological innovation in Canada, we are excited to collaborate on this research project by leveraging our extensive scientific background as well as a total contribution exceeding a $700,000 value to the project,” said Bruce D. Clark, President and CEO of Medicago.

“We are very proud to once again have the opportunity to contribute to the development of Medicago R&D. Ten years ago, CQDM funded the creation of Medicago’s antigen discovery platform, a tool that has propelled the company’s growth and that is still useful to them today”, said Diane Gosselin, President and CEO of CQDM. “We have no doubt that this new initiative will generate just as many positive benefits for the company and for the Province of Quebec, especially in these extraordinary times.”

For the team at the Research Centre of the CHU-Laval University, this is a new opportunity to demonstrate that artificial intelligence approaches, such as machine or deep learning, when combined with more traditional methods, such as genomics or metabolomics, make it easier to interpret complex data in a scope of application such as biopharmaceutical production.

About Medicago

Medicago is a Canadian biopharmaceutical company whose mission is to improve global health outcomes by leveraging innovative plant-based technologies for rapid responses to emerging global health challenges. Medicago is committed to advancing therapeutics against life-threatening diseases worldwide. For more information, visit www.medicago.com

About CQDM

CQDM is a biopharma-based research consortium created in 2008 with the mission to fund the development of innovative technologies to accelerate the discovery and development of drugs and vaccines. Its business model is based on a collaborative approach bringing together world-leading pharmaceutical organizations, Canadian biotech companies as well as the Canadian and Quebec governments who share the costs of the research. CQDM uses this leverage to reduce the risks inherent to early-stage biopharmaceutical research. In doing so, CQDM bridges the funding gap needed to drive innovation across the academic and private sectors, especially where early-stage research is concerned. CQDM receives contributions from Quebec’s Ministry of Economy and Innovation (MEI), from large pharmaceutical companies, and from the Government of Canada under the Business-Led Networks of Centres of Excellence Program (BL-NCE). For more information: http://www.cqdm.org/en

Contact:
Medicago
Alissa Von Bargen
+1 647 234-5975
Alissa.VonBargen@gcicanada.com

Contact:
CQDM
julien.caudroit@innovitech.com
+1 514 297-5231

Contact:
Professor Jacques Corbeil
jacques.corbeil@fmed.ulaval.ca
+1 418 525-4444 (46423)