Medicago, a Canadian company that operates a vaccine plant in Durham, announced Monday that it has been awarded a contract from the Department of Defense that allows it to bid on manufacturing contracts in the future.
The award could result in more work for the Durham plant, which employs more than 55 people.
"This contract is important as Medicago is now listed as a company meeting all of DARPA's rigorous technical requirements," said Mike Wanner, Medicago's executive vice president of operations, in a statement.
"This fits Medicago's revenue-generation model nicely as we can leverage our cost-effective commercial production facility in North Carolina to bid for production orders when they are issued by the U.S. government."
Medicago has already completed a $21 million federal contract to test a high-speed, high-volume production method for pandemic flu vaccine. The contract required the company to successfully produce 10 million doses of the vaccine candidate in 30 days.
Medicago creates vaccines using tobacco plants grown in a nursery at the Durham lab, a process that can reduce the production time from six months to less than two months.
Medicago's approach involves growing viruslike cultures in the tobacco leaves and extracting the proteins in a laboratory. Vaccines are typically grown in chicken eggs or tissue cultures.
The company expects to initiate phase two clinical trials of its seasonal flu vaccine this summer.