After 24 years in operation, a Quebec-based drug manufacturer that produced a Canadian COVID-19 vaccine and other plant-based drugs is closing.
Parent company Mitsubishi Chemical Group announced on Thursday it plans to shut down Medicago Inc., headquartered in Quebec City, "in due course, in accordance with local laws and regulations."
Medicago, which began operating in Quebec in 1999, describes itself as "one of few" manufacturers in the world with the capability to develop both vaccines and monoclonal antibody treatments, which are used to prevent and treat a broad range of diseases, including cancers, Crohn's disease, arthritis, multiple sclerosis and COVID-19.
Last year, Health Canada approved Medicago's plant-based COVID-19 vaccine, Covifenz, for adults aged 18 to 64. The vaccine was meant to be administered in two doses, and clinical trials showed it was 71 per cent effective in preventing COVID-19 infection beginning one week after the second dose.
In October 2020, before the vaccine was approved, the federal government penned a deal to buy up to 76 million doses of the drug, in addition to providing $173 million in funding to support the vaccine's development and the construction of a new Quebec City manufacturing plant.
Medicago had been preparing to launch commercial-scale production of the vaccine, but its parent company announced Friday it would cease all of its operations, citing changes to the COVID-19 vaccine landscape, global demand for COVID-19 vaccines ,and "Medicago’s challenges in transitioning to commercial-scale production."
"The group judged that it was not viable to continue to make further investment in the commercialization of Medicago’s development products, and decided to cease all of its operations at Medicago and proceed with an orderly wind up of its business and operations," according to a statement published on Mitsubishi Chemical Group's website Thursday.
In a post to Twitter on Thursday, Quebec City Mayor Bruno Marchand called the closure a "huge pity."
"My thoughts are with the families who learned some very sad news today," he wrote in French. "We have to roll up our sleeves to keep all this expertise in the field of health innovation in Quebec."
With files from The Canadian Press