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A Site Selection Web Exclusive, May 2015
WEB Exclusive story

Time for Planting

Medicago scales up at its home base.

Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard (red tie), Medicao CEO Andy Sheldon (far right) and other senior government and Medicago officials announced the company's C$245-million, 200-job investment on Tuesday, May 21
Photo courtesy of Office of Premier Couillard

by Adam Bruns
Andrew Sheldon is CEO of Medicago.
Photo courtesy of Medicago

Earlier this week, Medicago, a Canadian biotech company that develops and produces plant-based vaccines and therapeutics, announce that Quebec City will be home to its new production complex. The C$245-million (US$200-million) project will create 200 new high-skilled jobs by 2019, adding to the team of 180 employees already working at Medicago's Quebec City office and laboratories. The project is expected to generate more than C$461 million in direct and indirect economic benefits over the next five years.

In its announcement, Medicago, founded in 1999, said its team chose Quebec City "because of its qualified employees and the access to an experienced workforce, world-class research infrastructure, a dynamic business culture and support from the federal, provincial and municipal governments."

Medicago's new complex will be built in Quebec City's Espace d'innovation D'Estimauville(Estimauville Innovation Park) and completed by 2019. It will regroup Medicago's head office, R&D activities and commercial production plant.

"We're pleased that Medicago will take this next major step in Quebec City, where we have already developed our innovative technology," said Andy Sheldon, Medicago's CEO. "We will export most of our vaccines to foreign markets, but we also believe our new production complex will help Canada meet its needs for seasonal and pandemic flu vaccines, in addition to strengthening the country's response to emerging diseases around the world."

Medicago's new 44,000-sq.-m. (473,630-sq.-ft.) facility will be located on a site twice that size, and will have the capacity to deliver up to 40 to 50 million doses of quadrivalent seasonal flu vaccines. In addition, work towards developing new products will take place over the upcoming years.

As reported by Site Selection over several years, Medicago has grown up fast, but certainly has surpassed the upstart phase. Among the investments tracked by Site Selection's New Plant Database are a $21-million biotech facility in North Carolina's Research Triangle Park in 2010, a $4-million, 20-job vaccine facility investment in 2012 in Quebec City; and a $38-million vaccine investment there just last year.

Medicago currently operates a 24,000-sq.-ft. production facility located in the Technology Park in Quebec City. At its head office site there, it rents 16,000 sq. ft. total, with just under half devoted to lab space. Medicago also currently owns a 14,000-sq.-ft. pilot production facility located in the “Parc Technologique du Québec Métropolitain” in Québec City.

Medicago cut the ribbon at its operation in North Carolina's Research Triangle Park in November 2011.
Photo courtesy of Medicago

Medicago U.S.A.'s facility in Research Triangle Park is a Virus-Like-Particle plant-based vaccine facility that includes a fully automated greenhouse and an extraction and purification unit. The 97,000-sq.-ft. cGMP facility is targeted to produce 10 million doses of pandemic influenza vaccine per month. On an annual basis, the facility could have production capacity of 30 million doses of quadrivalent seasonal influenza vaccine or 120 million doses of pandemic influenza vaccine.

Medicago's innovative technology uses plants like miniature factories that can quickly produce large quantities of vaccines or treatments. This technology demonstrated its potential for responding to global pandemics when it produced candidate vaccines for H1N1 in 2009 and H7N9 in 2013 in just 19 days, compared to the several months required to produce vaccines using eggs.

Medicago in February was awarded a contract by the US government to manufacture Ebola antibodies in its Quebec City pilot production plant for a study in non-human primates. The technology used can quickly produce large amounts of antibodies, thereby boosting production volumes to increase stockpiles across the globe.

The company's expansion project received support from all three levels of government in the form of loans or discounted land purchase costs. The governments of Canada and Quebec provided loans of $8 million and $60 million, respectively. The municipal government contributed $6.5 million. Medicago specifically thanked the city's Québec International agency for its support throughout the project's development.

“Quebec is truly an ideal location for investment in life sciences, notably due to its state-of-the-art infrastructure, skilled labour force and indisputable expertise in research and development," said Jacques Daoust, Minister of the Economy, Innovation and Exports for the province, and previously the executive direction of the province's economic development agency Invest Quebec. "This Medicago project, which I had the opportunity to discuss with company directors at the BIO International Convention in 2014 and in Davos last January, is helping to further build on that expertise, and of that we are extremely proud."

"Such missions help forge important contacts, attract investment and solidify projects," said Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard of the conversations in Davos. "Today, this Medicago project move forward in the Capitale-Nationale region, which will now be able to position itself as a world hub in the field of infectious disease control and vaccine production."

Medicago's plant-based approach includes the cultivation of tobacco, shown here in the greenhouses at its facility in North Carolina.
Photo courtesy of Medicago

Adam Bruns
Managing Editor of Site Selection magazine

Adam Bruns

Adam Bruns has served as managing editor of Site Selection magazine since February 2002. In the course of reporting hundreds of stories for Site Selection, Adam has visited companies and communities around the globe. A St. Louis native who grew up in the Kansas City suburbs, Adam is a 1986 alumnus of Knox College, and resided in Chicago; Midcoast Maine; Savannah, Georgia; and Lexington, Kentucky, before settling in the Greater Atlanta community of Peachtree Corners, where he lives with his wife and daughter.


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