Towards Fast Discovery of New Vaccines

VLPExpress: a novel, high-throughput technology to accelerate the discovery and development of new vaccine antigens based on Virus-Like Particles (VLPs)

Competition: FOCUS Program 2009
Funding: $1,800,000 / 3 years
Beginning: September 2009
Completed project
Development of VLPExpress, a novel high-throughput platform for the discovery of new Virus-Like Particles (VLPs) vaccine antigen. The ultimate goal is to perform a typical project from target screening to VLP delivery for efficacy testing in about 10 weeks and for less than $100,000.

Medicago is one of the first recipients of the CQDM funding program. In less than two years, Dr. Vézina and his team developed the VLPExpress, a high-throughput platform, from their proprietary plant-based transient expression system. The platform is designed to quickly identify the best VLP-based antigen presentations out of hundreds of candidates for a disease-causing agent. The best targets can then be characterized, produced and purified. An important part of the platform was the development of a generic purification process to accelerate the target evaluation. The validity and utility of this platform was demonstrated using viruses of the Orthomyxoviridae family. The project is expected to end in November 2011 with additional proof of concept on targets from other viral families. The approach used for the VLPExpress platform will open up new avenues for the development of more challenging vaccines, notably for microbial and parasitic antigens or cancer. The public-private consortium gathered by the CQDMand its associated mentorship program has benefited Medicago in multiple ways. “The development of the VLPExpress platform impacted our day-to-day activities. We are now more efficient at performing different steps of our technologies because of the capacity and speed brought by this high-throughput discovery platform” affirms Louis-Philippe Vézina, Chief Scientific Officer at Medicago.

Impact on the drug discovery process

  • Flagship high-throughput platform for native and chimeric vaccine antigen discovery:
    Enveloped and non-enveloped vaccine development in diverse therapeutic areas such as infectious diseases and cancer
  • 10 x faster to vaccine lead than traditional methods.
  • Substantial reductions in costs from $1M to the low $100Ks.
  • Novel proprietary antigens readily transferable to partner’s preferred vaccine manufacturing system.

Key facts

  • Immunization: most successful, cost-effective public health intervention, preventing between two and three million deaths yearly.
  • However, several infectious diseases remain a major health concern.
  • Over 1 million young children die every year from pneumococcal disease and rotavirus diarrhoea.
  • Globally 64 million respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) cases with worldwide market estimated to be in the billions of $.
  • An astounding 99% of cervical cancer cases are linked to an infection with a human papilloma virus (HPV).
  • Between 170 and 200 million people are chronically infected with the hepatitis C virus (HCV) worldwide.

Main accomplishments

  • Cost-effective VLPExpress platform, an operational small-scale, high-throughput platform for the discovery of VLP vaccines.
  • Platform validated with various influenza types and sub-types as well as additional virus classes.

Fore more information