Plant-based technology to develop a COVID-19 vaccine candidate

image by Chokniti Khongchum

The Canadian biopharmaceutical company Medicago announced that it produced Virus-Like Particles (VLP) of the coronavirus just 20 days after receiving the SARS-CoV-2 genetic sequence, using a plant-based technology. Production of the VLP is the first step in developing a vaccine against COVID-19 disease which will now undergo preclinical testing for safety and efficacy. Medicago can produce both vaccine and antibody candidates.

Medicago does not work with a live virus but uses plants. With the help of Agrobacterium tumefaciens the genetic sequence of the virus is inserted into the a tobacco plant Nicotiana benthamiana. The plant produces the protein of the virus that can then be used as a vaccine. Viruses tend to mutate quickly, as is expected for COVID-19. The plant-based technology used can swiftly be adapted to match this evolution.

Medicago media release