Quebec wants to help Medicago replace a cumbersome shareholder

Quebec wants to help Medicago replace a cumbersome shareholder

(Montreal) The Government of Quebec wants to help Medicago replace a cumbersome shareholder that prevents it from selling its vaccines internationally.

Posted at 17:24

Stephane Rolland
the canadian press

In May, the World Health Organization (WHO) rejected Quebec’s biopharmaceutical vaccine against COVID-19, which uses plants in its manufacturing process. The reason for the refusal is the presence of the Philip Morris tobacco company as a minority shareholder in the company, a decision linked to a UN agency policy adopted in 2005.

Quebec wants to help the company replace the minority shareholder, Economy Minister Pierre Fitzgibbon said on the sidelines of an economic announcement in Montreal on Monday. “Medicago is a great company from Quebec. They have several structuring development plans. So I want to see Medicago compromise in Quebec as it is. If we can facilitate the repurchase of Philip Morris shares to achieve this, we will do so. »

Medicago’s Covifenz vaccine was approved by Health Canada in February for adults ages 18 to 64. It is the only COVID-19 vaccine made in Canada. In December, the company said its two-dose vaccine was 71% effective in preventing COVID-19 infections, according to a large study that included several variants, including Delta. The company’s results do not include the emerging Omicron variant, which was not in circulation during the study period.

The federal government has signed a contract to buy up to 76 million doses of Covifenz. Canada had planned to donate any surplus vaccine doses to low-income countries through the COVAX vaccine exchange alliance. Since the WHO rejected Medicago’s request, Canada will not be able to donate doses of Covifenz.

ongoing negotiations

Mr. Fitzgibbon had talks with the leaders of Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma to resolve the impasse, but the Japanese company must first negotiate itself to buy out the Philip Morris stake, it adds. “It will be more up to Mitsubishi to buy its American partner, Philipp Morris. It’s not up to us to do that. I offered that the government could participate. »

Mitsubishi is a 79% shareholder in Medicago. Philip Morris owns the rest of the shares, or 21%.

Mistubishi is reaching out to the Legault government for help. The company is asking for support so that Medicago’s vaccines “receive a favorable reception from the WHO and can be commercialized on a large scale,” according to a recent entry in the Quebec Lobbyist Registry. “The nature, form and amount of the financing are unknown,” the company said in the filing.

Questioned on the subject, Mr. Fitzgibbon replied that he could not say what the scope of the government’s financial support might be. “I don’t know the answer because Medicago has ambitious plans to expand its operations. Possibly there are other projects they want to do. »

Medicago is finalizing its business plan that will be presented to Mitsubishi, adds the Minister. The provincial government could provide assistance for the purchase of the Philip Morris stake or for “possible” expansion plans. Details have yet to be determined. “When it’s done [la présentation du plan de Medicago à Mitsubishi], we are going to sit down with Mitsubishi and say what we are willing to do. »

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