Opposition parties fear Quebec’s expertise in manufacturing herbal vaccines will be lost with the closure of Medicago, but the government says it has started talks with “potential buyers”.
• Also read: Medicago Shutdown: Chamber of Commerce ‘Reassured’ by Governments
• Also read: Biopharma: the end for Medicago in Canada
On Thursday, chemicals giant Mitsubishi Chemical Group announced its decision to stop investing in Medicago, a biopharmaceutical company specializing in the research and development of new vaccines using plant-based virus-like particle (VLP) technology. The company is headquartered in Quebec.
“It is a pity and embarrassment that this project cannot go ahead here,” apologies United MP Vincent Marissal in a written statement to the QMI agency. We hope Quebec’s know-how is not lost and the technology developed here stays there.”
Likewise, the Parti Québécois believes that the closure of Medicago “goes against the development we are seeking in our key sectors.”
“Has the government been informed of the decision in advance? If so, what has he done to keep the company and keep his operations and jobs going?” wondered PQ MP Joël Arseneau.
The Liberals described the company’s closure as “sad news” in a post on social media. “We are losing Quebec vaccine production and related intellectual property. The intellectual property portfolio will pass with the Japanese shareholder,” noted Liberal MP Fred Beauchemin on Twitter.
For its part, the government ensures that it wants to keep the know-how developed by the company in Quebec.
“There is expertise there, and we want to keep it in Quebec,” Finance Minister Eric Girard said at a press crowd in Toronto.
Economy Minister Pierre Fitzgibbon, for his part, confirmed that the government was actively looking for a buyer for Medicago’s activities.
“There are strong forces in Quebec for plant-based vaccine technology. Mitsubishi informed us at the end of December that they wanted to withdraw from the company. We have started making preliminary contacts with potential buyers,” he said on the sidelines of an announcement in Saint-Hubert.
“There are people who have shown interest, it’s still a big operation, a lot needs to be invested in research and development,” he added.
Quebec had made a $73 million loan to Medicago. Of that amount, only 50 million would have been paid to the company, Minister Fitzgibbon noted. He assures that this loan will be repaid to him in full.
“We have been confirmed that Medicago and Mitsubishi will pay us back,” he said.