Medicago and Cellectis in successful biosimilars research collaboration

Biosimilars/News | Posted 19/10/2012 post-comment0 Post your comment

Canadian biopharmaceutical company Medicago and Cellectis plant sciences, a subsidiary of Cellectis SA, French genome engineering specialist, announced on 4 October 2012 the successful completion of the first step in their research collaboration to improve therapeutic proteins produced in tobacco plants.

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The agreement between Medicago and Cellectis plant sciences covers the development of biosimilar protein therapeutics from tobacco plants. The partnership aims to modify the glycosylation of biosimilar product candidates in order to optimise the efficacy, solubility, therapeutic half-life and tissue distribution of these products. 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.

The research agreement was signed between Medicago and Cellectis plant sciences in January 2012, and since then research conducted by the companies 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.

Medicago Chief Executive Officer, Mr Andy Sheldon, said that ‘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.’ While Chief Executive Officer of Cellectis plant sciences, Dr Luc Mathis, added that ‘we are very pleased by the rapid achievement of these positive results. 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.’

This is not the first time plants have been used in research into biological medicines. In July 2012, biotechnology company iBio, self-professed leader in the plant-made pharmaceutical field, and GE Healthcare, the health business of General Electric, announced a new global alliance to commercialise plant-based technologies for the manufacture of biologicals and vaccines [1].


1.  GaBI Online - Generics and Biosimilars Initiative. iBio and GE Healthcare form new global alliance []. Mol, Belgium: Pro Pharma Communications International; [cited 2012 Oct 19]. Available from:

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Source: Cellectis, Medicago

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