Minister Champagne discusses Medicago ownership in Japan

(OTTAWA) The federal government is not considering providing funds to support the purchase of stock in the country’s only COVID-19 vaccine maker, but it is “working on a solution” with Medicago’s parent company.

Posted at 10:51 p.m

Innovation, Science and Industry Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne has been in Japan for a week, praising Canada as a good location for manufacturing electric vehicles and the batteries that power them.

At a meeting with the presidents of Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma and Mitsubishi Chemical, which hold a 79% stake in Medicago, Champagne said there were talks about the company’s future as a global vaccine maker.

Its biopharmaceutical vaccine was rejected by the World Health Organization (WHO) because tobacco company Philip Morris is a minority shareholder and the UN agency has a tough policy of collaborating with industry.

The Covifenz vaccine was approved by Health Canada in February for adults ages 18 to 64, and the federal government has signed a deal to purchase up to 76 million doses with vaccine donation plans for low-income countries.

However, donations are not permitted without WHO approval.

Mr Champagne says the government is working with the company to make Medicago “a world leader in global health,” but that doesn’t include buying shares at this stage.

He notes that the government has already invested to bolster Medicago’s research and development and manufacturing capabilities.

Mitsubishi has approached the Quebec government for support so that Medicago’s vaccines “can be positively received by the WHO and widely commercialized,” according to a filing in the lobbyists’ register.

“The nature, form and amount of funding is unknown,” she added.

Quebec Minister of Commerce Pierre Fitzgibbon stressed in June that he was in talks with Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma executives to resolve the impasse, but that the Japanese company must first negotiate itself to buy Philip Morris’ stake.

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