Medicago shares jump after regulators clear flu trial

In a fresh sign that everything pandemic-related gets swiftly shoved into the biotech spotlight these days, shares of Medicago have been buoyed by its announcement that Canadian regulators have cleared an early-stage human trial of its bird flu vaccine.

Researchers for the company plan to vaccinate 48 healthy volunteers with two jabs 21 days apart in a double-blind, dose-escalating study. Medicago uses virus-like particle technology to develop new vaccines that are manufactured in a plant that's a relative to tobacco. Medicago expects to wrap the trials by the end of 2012 and seek an approval in early 2013. Its shares shot up 10 percent on the news.

"This trial will be the first in which a plant-based vaccine will be injected into humans in Canada," said CEO Andy Sheldon. "We believe we have a compelling vaccine against influenza--a candidate, which at low dosage may protect against different strains of influenza that have the potential of becoming a pandemic. Combined with our rapid response and low cost manufacturing capabilities, we believe our vaccine can address an unmet gap in pandemic influenza preparedness efforts."

- check out the Medicago release
- read the Reuters report