Vaccine production plant forms part of Canada’s COVID-19 response

The University of Saskatchewan’s (USask) has received funding from the Canadian government to construct a pilot manufacturing plant to support trials of a COVID-19 vaccine candidate.

Like many governments, Canada’s is ploughing funds into tackling the coronavirus pandemic currently sweeping the globe. A CAD 275 million ($195 million) fund for COVID-19 health research has been announced, and includes several investment in USask’s Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization-International Vaccine Centre (VIDO-InterVac), which it says is one of the largest and most advanced infectious disease research facilities in the world.

“With CAD 11 million in funding from the Canada Foundation for Innovation, VIDO-InterVac will be able to strengthen its existing expertise in coronavirus research and to help develop a vaccine for COVID-19,” the Prime Minister’s office said this week.

Image: iStock/mirsad sarajlic

“An additional CAD 12 million from Western Economic Diversification’s Regional Economic Growth Through Innovation program will help VIDO-InterVac expand its bio-manufacturing capacity to support clinical trials.”

The CAD 12 million will be used specifically to construct a pilot-scale manufacturing facility on USask’s campus to accelerate vaccine development.

“We expect to begin vaccine production in a little more than a year,” said VIDO-InterVac director Volker Gerdts.

The center has also received CAD 11.3 million from the Canada Foundation for Innovation under the federal Major Science Initiatives program to develop a vaccine for COVID-19. The candidate is in the preclinical animal testing stage and if successful could begin human trials in fall.

“As one of the few Canadian research facilities with regulatory approval to work on the new virus, VIDO-InterVac was the first lab in the country to isolate the virus,” the company says. “This was done over five weeks ago, in collaboration with the Public Health Agency of Canada and Sunnybrook. The isolated virus was made available to federal and provincial laboratories.”

Canada’s planned response to fight COVID-19 also includes CAD 15 million for the National Research Council of Canada to upgrade its Human Health Therapeutics facility in Montréal to add GMP quality assurance certification.