RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – Two life science firms with a big presence in the Triangle are teaming up to develop a potential vaccine for COVID-19.

GlaxoSmithKline and Medicago announced the partnership early Tuesday.

Medicago is based in Canada but has a big operation in RTP.

The companies will “develop and evaluate a COVID-19 vaccine that combines the latter’s Coronavirus Virus-Like Particles with GSK’s adjuvant,” reports news site SeekingAlpha.

“If all goes well, the companies expect to complete development and have the vaccine available in H1 2021. They believe that they can produce ~100M doses by the end of 2021 and up to 1B doses/year by the end of 2023.”

What the execs are saying about the deal

Dr Thomas Breuer, Chief Medical Officer, GSK Vaccines: “This agreement paves the way for an innovative vaccine option combining a scalable plant-based antigen technology with an adjuvant which has pandemic dose sparing capability. If successful, it will be a meaningful contributor in the fight against COVID-19. We strongly believe that multiple vaccines are needed, including post-pandemic vaccines. This plant-based technology also shows promise beyond COVID-19 and has the potential to help prevent other infectious diseases.”

Dr Bruce Clark, President and CEO of Medicago: “We are about to begin clinical trials with our CoVLP vaccine candidate harnessing GSKs pandemic adjuvant technology against the virus that causes COVID-19. This collaboration with GSK gives us access to a proven adjuvant which could enhance the effectiveness of our candidate vaccine, and also to a depth of scientific experience to support our development efforts.”

The plan

In a statement the companies explained their plans:

“The companies will use Medicago’s plant-based production platform to manufacture the COVID-19 vaccine antigen. This innovative technology uses the leaves of a plant as bioreactors to produce the S-spike protein which self-assemble into VLPs for use in the CoVLP vaccine candidate. It is highly scalable and can support the production of large amounts of vaccine in a significantly shortened timeline. Using this technology combined with GSKs proprietary adjuvant system, the companies expect to be able to manufacture approximately 100m doses by the end of 2021. By the end of 2023, a large-scale facility under construction in Quebec City, Canada, is expected to deliver up to 1 billion doses annually. The manufacturing platform has been used to produce a seasonal VLP flu vaccine and the license application is under review with the Canadian regulatory authority.”