VLPExpress®: Novel high-throughput discovery platform to accelerate the development of new vaccines based on Virus-Like Particles

Challenge: Despite the enormous benefits that traditional vaccines have brought to human health in the last century, preventable diseases continue to claim millions of lives each year. New vaccine technologies that offer speed and versatility in production would have significant impact. The emergence of technologies based on Virus-Like Particles (VLPs) has paved the way for a new generation of vaccines with improved efficacy and greater potential to address unmet medical needs.

Solution: Medicago’s team has developed VLPExpress®, a high-throughput platform based on their proprietary plant-based transient expression system. The platform is designed to quickly identify the optimal VLP-based antigen presentation among hundreds of VLP candidates. The best candidates can then be characterized, expressed and purified. An important aspect of the platform was the development of a generic purification process to accelerate target evaluation. The validity and utility of this platform was demonstrated using viruses belonging to the Orthomyxoviridae family. During the project, the team was able to miniaturize and automate all key segments of the vaccine discovery platform. This enabled investigators to streamline their screening system for the development of new VLP-based vaccine antigens from 7 viral families.

Achievements/Impacts: This high-throughput combinatorial approach for the development of new VLP-based vaccines represents a first in class innovation and has contributed to the growth of Medicago. The company, headquartered in Canada has two shareholders, Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma Corporation (60%) and Philip Morris Investments B.V. (40%), its focus is on the development and production of novel plant-based vaccines and therapeutics. A new production complex is under construction in Quebec City with the capacity to deliver up to 40- 50 million doses of quadrivalent seasonal flu vaccines yearly.

Principal Investigator:

Louis-Philippe Vézina
Former VP/CSO, Medicago Inc.


Alain Garnier
Université Laval

Brian Ward
McGill University

Completed Project
$1,762,700 / 3 years
Supported by CQDM through:
• AstraZeneca
• Merck
• Pfizer