Quebec-Based COVID Vaccine Manufacturer to Halt All Operations

Quebec-Based COVID Vaccine Manufacturer to Halt All Operations
A vial of a plant-derived COVID-19 vaccine candidate, developed by Medicago, is shown in Quebec City on July 13, 2020, as part of the company’s Phase 1 clinical trials. (The Canadian Press/HO, Medicago)
Peter Wilson

A COVID-19 vaccine manufacturing company in Quebec is set to cease all operations after its owner and sole shareholder decided to pull investments because of “significant changes” in the COVID vaccine-making industry.

Medicago Inc., which is headquartered in Quebec City and was the manufacturer of the plant-based COVID vaccine, Covifenz, announced on Feb. 3 that it will not be receiving any further investments from the Mitsubishi Chemical Group (MCG) and that it will now begin an “orderly wind-up of its business and operations in Canada and in the United States.”
MCG wrote in a statement on Feb. 3 that Medicago had previously been preparing to transition its operations to a “commercial-scale” level.

“However, in light of significant changes to the COVID-19 vaccine landscape since the approval of Covifenz, and after a comprehensive review of the current global demand and market environment for COVID-19 vaccines and Medicago’s challenges in transitioning to commercial-scale production, the Group has determined that it will not pursue the commercialization of Covifenz,” MCG wrote.

MCG also said it judged that Medicago’s commercialization plans weren’t worth further investment and that it will now begin “an orderly wind up of its business and operations.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced in October 2020 that the federal government would invest up to $173 million in Medicago in order to “support Canada’s response to COVID-19 and future preparedness.”

Medicago’s Covifenz vaccine was approved by Health Canada in February 2022 for individuals aged between 18 and 64, with the federal agency noting at the time that its safety for those under 18 had not been established.
The two-dose vaccine, which was developed without animal products or live viruses, was said to be 70 percent effective at preventing COVID infections—prior to the Omicron wave—upon completion of its clinical trials.


However, the World Health Organization (WHO) rejected Medicago’s vaccine application for emergency use in March 2022 because of the company’s ties with tobacco companies.

WHO has a strict policy against engaging with companies that promote tobacco.

At the time, former Conservative Party leader Erin O’Toole criticized WHO for rejecting Medicago’s vaccine while approving less effective vaccines that had been manufactured in China.

“The WHO has approved several less-effective emergency use vaccines funded by China, but is rejecting an innovative Canadian vaccine because of one of their investors…Unbelievable,” O'Toole said in a Twitter post on March 25.

MCG has not specified exactly when Medicago’s business operations will be halted.

“Medicago’s activities and its regular operations will be significantly reduced and refocused on the wind down process. The winding up process will be completed in due course, in accordance with local laws and regulations,” it wrote.

The company added it will “promptly disclose” any matters that may arise in the process requiring attention.

“This impact to the Group’s earnings is currently under careful examination.”

The Canadian Press and Isaac Teo contributed to this report.