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VIDO director discusses research in Saskatchewan having a global impact

Click to play video: 'VIDO’s role with the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations'
VIDO’s role with the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations
RELATED - Saskatoon's Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization has become the ninth organization to join the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, which is the world’s largest organization for research projects into emerging infectious diseases. VIDO is the ninth organization to join CEPI, and a new facility is planned at the Saskatoon facility to house exotic animals and conduct research. – Feb 5, 2024

The Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization works out of the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, and the director gave a look at some of the work being done on site.

VIDO director and chief executive Volker Gerdts said the organization has been working with companies across the globe to find solutions for COVID-19.

“Some of the vaccines that are now being used on humans were tested here at VIDO,” Gerdts said.

Click to play video: 'Behind the scenes at VIDO'
Behind the scenes at VIDO

He said VIDO is also working to address future COVID-19 strains, saying this work means the organization won’t have to wait a year if another strain pops up.

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Gerdts said through the use of tools like artificial intelligence, researchers can aim to predict where mutations happen.

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“A new virus doesn’t fall from the sky, it evolves from an existing virus.”

He said VIDO is working to get vaccines to the point where they can protect against multiple pathogens and get rid of the need for booster shots.

VIDO holds one of the three largest high containment laboratories in the world, with Gerdts adding that it has employees from 30 different countries and pulls trainees from across the globe.

He spoke about the level three laboratory, explaining that researchers wear a tyvek suit equipped with a respiratory unit that has a HEPA filter that keeps them safe from pathogens.

Gerdts said pathogens are only worked with in specialized equipment like a SterilGARD cabinet.

He said VIDO is upgrading some of its space to a level four containment, allowing it to work with any kind of pathogen.

Gerdts said he hopes to have those renovations finished by the middle of 2025.

Click to play video: 'VIDO Director showcases the work happening in Saskatchewan’s backyard'
VIDO Director showcases the work happening in Saskatchewan’s backyard

“We cannot predict what the next pandemic will be, we cannot predict what the next pathogen will be. It might be that it is a level four pathogen.”

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He said for VIDO to respond to a pathogen in that scenario, it will need these upgrades.

Gerdts highlighted another facility dedicated for animals.

“We are now able to start construction of our new animal facility. That a $100-million facility built right here attached to VIDO.”

He said this facility will house exotic species, allowing researchers to study bats, tics, reptiles and other animals where they are seeing transfer of diseases.

Gerdts said viruses can jump between people and animals.

He said VIDO is one of nine organizations that is a part of a global network of facilities that can work with animals and do research to help inform vaccine development.

“The research that we do, that we all work so hard for, we can see that it benefits people.”

“We can change the world by doing the research that we do here,” Gerdts added.

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