As panic sets in across North America, Quebec City biopharmaceutical company Medicago announced that it has produced a COVID-19 vaccine candidate. More specifically, according to a press release, its scientists have "successfully produced a Virus-Like Particle (VLP) of the coronavirus just 20 days after obtaining the SARS-CoV-2 (virus causing the COVID-19 disease) gene." This is the "first step in developing a vaccine for COVID-19 which will now undergo preclinical testing for safety and efficacy."

Human trials could begin by late summer 2020.

This news comes after researches at the University of Saskatchewan announced that they, too, had produced a vaccine and were entering the testing stages.

But Medicago is championing its "proprietary plant-based technology," which, "unlike traditional vaccination development," does "not use animal products or live viruses."

Instead, the company "uses Virus-Like Particles (VLPs) that mimic the shape and dimensions of a virus, which allows the body to recognize them and create an immune response in a non-infectious way."

The press release claims that this "technology is rapid, versatile, and scalable."

"As soon as the genetic sequence of a virus is made available, Medicago can develop a clinical-grade vaccine candidate in only a few weeks." 

Though, the American Centre for Disease Control and National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases have told reporters and lawmakers that it will likely take a year and a half before a vaccine is made available to the public.

MTL Blog reached out to Medicago for more information on the vaccine candidate and its timeline. We will update this article when we receive a response.

In the meantime, many public spaces are temporarily closing or moving to online services to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

In Montreal, public schools and several universities closed Friday, March 13, in order to fully implement new safety recommendations from the provincial government, which also banned indoor events of 250 people and more.

As of 9:00 a.m. Friday, there are 17 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Quebec.

The government encourages anyone with symptoms to contact Info-Santé at 811.

The complete list of health recommendations from the government of Canada is online here.

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