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Quebec wants PMI replaced as Medicago shareholder

21 Jun 2022. Medicago’s COVID-19 vaccine was rejected by the World Health Organization (WHO) because of the company’s ties to the tobacco industry through shareholder Philip Morris (PMI), reports CTV News.

Medicago’s homegrown plant-based vaccine Covifenz was licensed by Health Canada for adults 18 to 64 and is said to be 71 per cent effective in preventing COVID-19 infections, however the WHO rejected it due to PMI, as a tobacco company, being a minority shareholder, reports CTV News.

The government in Quebec has now announced that it wants to help Medicago replace PMI as a shareholder that it stands a chance of being able to sell its vaccine internationally. Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma holds 79 per cent of the shares in Medicago with PMI making up the remaining 21 per cent.

"Medicago is a fine Quebec company. They have several structuring development plans. So, I want to see Medicago be committed to Quebec as they are. If to achieve this, we can facilitate the purchase of Philip Morris' shares, we will do it," said Economy Minister Pierre Fitzgibbon.

Fitzgibbon has discussed the issue with executives at Mitsubishi but said the ball was in their court regarding buying out PMI.

“It's going to be more up to Mitsubishi to buy out its American partner, Philipp Morris. It's not up to us to do that. I've offered that the government can participate," the minister said.

According to CTV News, Mitsubishi is approaching the Legault government for assistance. It is asking for support so that Medicago's vaccines "can receive a favourable reception from the WHO and be marketed on a large scale," according to a recent entry in the Quebec Registry of Lobbyists. "The nature, form and amount of funding are unknown," the registry states.