Medicago and Cellectis Successfully Achieve First Step in Research Collaboration

Progress made towards production of biosimilar products in tobacco plants


Quebec City (Quebec, Canada) and Saint Paul (Minnesota, USA), October 4, 2012 – Medicago Inc. (TSX: MDG; OTCQX: MDCGF), (“Medicago”) a biopharmaceutical company focused on developing highly effective and competitive vaccines based on proprietary manufacturing technologies and Virus Like Particles (“VLP”s), and Cellectis plant sciences, a US-based subsidiary of Cellectis Group (Alternext: ALCLS), (“Cellectis”), the specialist in genome engineering, today announced the successful completion of the first step in their research collaboration to improve therapeutic proteins produced in tobacco plants.

As part of an ongoing effort in the development biosimilar protein therapeutics from tobacco plants, Medicago is partnering with Cellectis to modify the glycosylation of biosimilar product candidates.  A biosimilar product is a therapeutic protein, which is similar in terms of quality, safety and efficacy to an already approved and marketed biotherapeutic product. Glycosylation is the addition of sugar molecules to proteins. Modifying the glycosylation of a protein can optimize the efficacy and other characteristics such as solubility, therapeutic half-life, and tissue distribution. Cellectis develops enzymes called nucleases that can specifically cut DNA and modify genes, and can enable the modification of protein glycosylation patterns. These nucleases can enable the development of modified tobacco plants with the goal of producing biosimilar products with optimal efficacy.

Since January 2012, research conducted by Medicago and Cellectis plant sciences has demonstrated high levels of efficacy using Cellectis’ nucleases to modify six different genes in the tobacco genome related to protein glycosylation.  Medicago and Cellectis will now continue with the next stage of their research collaboration, which includes both the generation and testing of modified tobacco plants and the evaluation of the ability to produce therapeutic proteins with modified glycosylation.

“Developing tobacco plants capable of producing biosimilars with modified glycosylation profiles could significantly reduce discovery and development timelines, and also improve the therapeutic profile of our biosimilar product candidates,” said Andy Sheldon, Chief Executive Officer of Medicago. “In addition to our core approach of utilizing transient expression technologies for the production of proteins in tobacco plants, we are also exploring genome engineering applications to improve products for human health benefit.”

“We are very pleased by the rapid achievement of these positive results,” said Luc Mathis, Chief Executive Officer of Cellectis plant sciences. “This success further validates our ambition to be the leading platform technology applying genome engineering in plants and should open new opportunities for Cellectis plant sciences as a key partner in the plant business.”


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