The authorization of this vaccine represents an important milestone for the biotechnological industry of plant-made recombinant pharmaceuticals, an area in which the CBGP is actively working.
On 24-february-2022, the Canadian biotech Company Medicago Inc. has announced that the Canadian sanitary authority (Health Canada), has granted authorization for the commercialization of Covifenz, a COVID-19 vaccine (https://medicago.com/en/press-release/covifenz/). It is the first vaccine made in plants for human use authorized in the world. The vaccine contains particles that are similar to the SARS-CoV-2 virus, but lacking their nucleic acid, what makes them non-infectious, but antigenic for vaccination use. The commercial formula includes an adjuvant made by the big pharma GSK. The authorization is a big step forward for the implementation in the market of plant-made sanitary products for their preventive, therapeutic, or diagnostic use, which is a fabrication trend whose pre-commercial development has grown significantly over the last decade.
The CBGP has not been away from this growing trend. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, it has been involved in the development and setting in motion of the technologies for the production of recombinant viral proteins in plants, thanks to funding granted by the Madrid Autonomous Community of two R&D projects, namely COV20/00114 led by Drs. Fernando Ponz and Antonio Molina, and PANGREEN led by Dr. Antonio Molina, also with the participation or Dr. Ponz and five professors/researchers (Drs. A. Diaz-Perales, A. Couce, A. Goñi, I. Pagan y J. Huerta-Cepas) who lead different research lines in the project . Within the context of the first project, the Spanish biotech company Agrenvec, also a participant in the project, has already produced several SARS-CoV-2 proteins, which are ready for commercialization. The CBGP involvement in these technologies includes the acquisition of specific infrastructure (Green Biofactory for Health: GB4H) with the PANGREEN grant. The infrastructure and technologies developed in the frame of these projects should ease a more rapid response to future pandemics or the emergence of new SARS-CoV-2 variants.