The Legault government wants to keep Medicago expertise in Quebec

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The Legault government wants to keep Medicago expertise in Quebec

Medicago Building Quebec Technology Park

Ottawa and Quebec are looking for a company to take over the activities of Medicago. The cessation of pharmaceutical activities should not rhyme with the loss of its expertise and its workers in Quebec, insist Quebec ministers.

Medicago announced Thursday that it was ceasing its activities after the many obstacles it faced in commercializing its plant-based vaccine against COVID-19. Mitsubishi Chemical Group, at the head of the Quebec-based company, deemed it unsustainable to continue investing in the commercialization of the company's development products.

< p class="e-p">Medicago employed over 300 employees who developed laboratory expertise. With the labor shortage, there is no doubt that they will find a job, but the province wants to ensure that their achievements are maintained here.

Closure of Medicago: interview with Pierre Fitzgibbon

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Closure of Medicago: interview with Pierre Fitzgibbon. 12-minute audio content, ICI Première show. Listening to the audio.

Clearly, that's what we're concerned about. We have to maintain that. If people go to work elsewhere, this expertise will disappear, declared the Minister of Economy, Innovation and Regional Economic Development, Pierre Fitzgibbon in an interview on the program Première Heure.

“We will do everything so that the pharmaceutical industry sees in Medicago and in these employees something interesting for the future. »

— Pierre Fitzgibbon, Minister of Economy, Innovation and Regional Economic Development

The federal and provincial governments have already been looking for buyers for some time month. Pierre Fitzgibbon has known since December that Mitsubishi does not want to remain a shareholder in Medicago.

“I contacted two strategic companies and out of the two one is interested in looking at this. […] We as a government will identify others. »

— Pierre Fitzgibbon, Minister of Economy, Innovation and Regional Economic Development

The Minister of Finance, Éric Girard, agrees with his colleague. We have to find a buyer, who will keep the intellectual property of the laboratories, of the spaces. […] It's not positive, but I'm optimistic that solutions will be found.

Finding a buyer is important, otherwise Mitsubishi could leave with the Medicago patents.

If the company is dissolved and no one takes over the company, technically the owner has the patents because there is nothing left in Quebec. But, we are not there yet, explains Minister Fitzgibbon who affirms that the government could, in this case, pay to keep and protect them.

Marc Dionne, public health specialist and clinical researcher at the CHU de Québec, participated in the development of the Medicago vaccine against COVID-19.

< p class="e-p">He is not surprised at the turn of events. We felt for months that Medicago had problems. I didn't understand that they were continuing to build the building because I knew the company was in trouble, he said.

Medicago closing: which flagship are we losing?

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Medicago closing: what jewel do we lose?. 8-minute audio content, ICI Première show. Listen to audio.

In 2018, the biopharmaceutical company launched the start of construction work on its new plant in the D'Estimauville sector at a cost of $245 million. This project launched before the pandemic provided for an installation of 44,000 m². The construction of the plant will be suspended.

According to Marc Dionne, it has been impossible for several months to continue clinical trials on Medicago's vaccine against COVID-19 authorized by Health Canada in February 2022.

“We needed a few thousand doses for clinical trials, but the company couldn't get them to us. supply when it should have supplied 100 million doses to Canada. »

— Marc Dionne, medical specialist in public health and clinical researcher at the CHU de Québec

If Marc Dionne is not surprised by this closure, the co-founder of Medicago, François Arcand, was taken aback by the cessation of activities.

Medicago's origin dates back to 1997.

He left the company several years ago, but he still believes in the potential of plants to provide the vaccines of tomorrow.

I think Medicago's best day is tomorrow, then the day after tomorrow, then the day after tomorrow. At some point it's going to be the best day for someone who is going to have an effective vaccine against something, he said on the microphone of the show It's even better ;afternoon.

Ottawa had signed an agreement to buy up to 76 million of the Medicago vaccine, in addition to injecting $ 173 million into the company for the manufacture of vaccines against COVID-19 and the establishment of production facilities in Quebec .

Federal Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said at a press briefing on Friday that experts are looking into the contracts signed during the pandemic with Medicago. There are clauses binding Medicago, and now Mitsubishi Chemical Group, in compliance with certain conditions, said Jean-Yves Duclos at the time. We will watch this carefully because the interests of the government and of Canada must be respected by the company.

Jean-Yves Duclos, Minister of Health.

According to the office of federal Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, François-Philippe Champagne, Mitsubishi is in breach of contract with the federal government. The energy of the Minister is however focused, at this point, on the search for solutions.

I am in contact with CEOs around the world to see who could possibly take over Medicago's activities. We want to keep jobs and intellectual property. […] It is a relatively complex situation, but everyone is trying to see who could be the industrial partner, says the minister.

His priority is to keep jobs in Quebec and avoid losing these skilled workers to other countries.

Federal Minister Jean-Yves Duclos also reiterated that many players in Ottawa and Quebec have already mobilized to be able to maintain Medicago's expertise in Quebec. We will all work together to quickly find solutions.