Plant-based virus-like particles, recombinant, adjuvanted COVID-19 vaccine



Plant-based virus-like particles, recombinant, adjuvanted COVID-19 vaccine is a vaccine comprising purified SARS-CoV-2 spike protein expressed in plant-based virus-like particles for the prevention of COVID-19 in adult patients.

Generic Name
Plant-based virus-like particles, recombinant, adjuvanted COVID-19 vaccine
DrugBank Accession Number

The Covifenz COVID-19 vaccine (plant-based virus-like particles (VLP), recombinant, adjuvanted) is a plant-based vaccine developed in partnership by Medicago and GlaxoSmithKline which is approved in Canada for the prevention of COVID-19.4 It is composed of VLPs expressing SARS-CoV-2 spike protein trimers (stabilized in a pre-fusion conformation) and is mixed with the AS03 adjuvant system prior to administration.4

While the concept of plant-based VLPs as vaccines is not new,2 it is a novel approach to COVID-19 vaccination, with previously approved COVID-19 vaccines mostly comprising viral vector (e.g. the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine) and nucleic acid vaccines (e.g. the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine).1 Plant-based VLPs offer a number of advantages as compared to other vaccine platforms, including speed and ease of manufacturing and increased immunogenicity.2 In addition, VLPs contain no viral material and are therefore inherently non-infectious, making them potentially safer alternatives to traditional vaccines.2

Biologic Classification
Other vaccines / Recombinant
  • Covifenz
  • Recombinant SARS-CoV-2 spike (S)-protein virus-like particle



The Covifenz COVID-19 vaccine is indicated for active immunization to prevent COVID-19 caused by SARS-CoV-2 in patients 18 years of age and older.5

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Associated Conditions
Contraindications & Blackbox Warnings
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Covifenz is administered as a two-dose regimen given intramuscularly 21 days apart.4

Mechanism of action

Covifenz is a recombinant and adjuvanted vaccine produced by plant-based technology. The antigenic portion of the vaccine is produced by delivering the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein genomic sequence into host leaf cells of non-transgenic plants utilizing a bacterial vector.4 The newly transgenic plant then serves as a bioreactor for producing virus-like particles (VLPs), which are self-assembled structures that resemble viruses but are absent viral genetic material and therefore non-infectious.2 The enveloped VLPs present spike protein trimers stabilized in a pre-fusion conformation on their surface which, following intramuscular administration, elicit both neutralizing antibody and cellular immune responses to SARS-CoV-2 spike proteins.4

Covifenz also contains an adjuvant, AS03, which is mixed with the antigenic component prior to administration to enhance the immune response to the vaccine.3


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Volume of distribution

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Protein binding

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Route of elimination

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Adverse Effects
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Pharmacogenomic Effects/ADRs
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Drug Interactions
This information should not be interpreted without the help of a healthcare provider. If you believe you are experiencing an interaction, contact a healthcare provider immediately. The absence of an interaction does not necessarily mean no interactions exist.
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Food Interactions
No interactions found.


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International/Other Brands
Covifenz (Medicago, Inc.)


Drug Categories
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Affected organisms
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Chemical Identifiers

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CAS number
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General References
  1. Simoes RSQ, Rodriguez-Lazaro D: Classical and Next-Generation Vaccine Platforms to SARS-CoV-2: Biotechnological Strategies and Genomic Variants. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2022 Feb 18;19(4). pii: ijerph19042392. doi: 10.3390/ijerph19042392. [Article]
  2. Chen Q, Lai H: Plant-derived virus-like particles as vaccines. Hum Vaccin Immunother. 2013 Jan;9(1):26-49. doi: 10.4161/hv.22218. Epub 2012 Sep 20. [Article]
  3. Garcon N, Vaughn DW, Didierlaurent AM: Development and evaluation of AS03, an Adjuvant System containing alpha-tocopherol and squalene in an oil-in-water emulsion. Expert Rev Vaccines. 2012 Mar;11(3):349-66. doi: 10.1586/erv.11.192. [Article]
  4. Health Canada Product Monograph: Covifenz (plant-based virus-like particles, recombinant, adjuvanted) emulsion for intramuscular injection (February 2022) [Link]
  5. Health Canada Approved Drug Products: COVIFENZ COVID-19 Vaccine (plant-based virus-like particles [VLP], recombinant, adjuvanted) Intramuscular Injection (March 2023) [Link]
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Clinical Trials

Clinical Trials
2Active Not RecruitingPreventionCoronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID‑19)1


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Dosage Forms
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Experimental Properties
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Drug created at February 24, 2022 20:38 / Updated at August 19, 2023 10:38