A Saskatoon lab that has created Canada’s first coronavirus vaccine – which is currently in the testing stage but still a long way from being manufactured – has now received $28 million from the federal and provincial governments since January.
Scientists at the University of Saskatchewan’s Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization – International Vaccine Centre (VIDO-InterVac) were the first in Canada to isolate the virus that causes COVID-19.
For weeks, the lab has been testing the vaccine on ferrets. Scientists expect to know in mid-April whether their vaccine works in animals.
Clinical testing can start once VIDO-InterVac can prove to Health Canada that the vaccine is safe in humans. Officials say clinical testing of this vaccine in humans could start as early as this fall.
On Monday, the federal government announced $24 million in funding, with over $11 million being used to strengthen the lab’s existing expertise in coronavirus research and to develop the vaccine, say officials.
Another $12 million aims to help VIDO-InterVac expand its bio-manufacturing capacity to support clinical trials.
“This funding helps fast-track vaccine development for emerging infections including COVID-19,” Dr. Volker Gerdts, director and chief executive officer of VIDO-InterVac, said in a statement.
On Wednesday, the government of Saskatchewan also awarded VIDO-InterVac $4.2 million in new money.
“Saskatchewan is leading the global effort to find a vaccine, and we are providing our researchers with additional support to continue and to share their life-saving work with Canadians and people around the world,” said Tina Beaudry-Mellor, minister responsible for Innovation Saskatchewan.
Additionally, the lab previously received $1 million through a rapid research funding initiative for COVID-19 vaccines for clinical trials and operational costs. This brings total funding for VIDO-InterVac in 2020 to $28 million.
“The government of Canada is committed to protecting the health and safety of Canadians,” Navdeep Bains, federal minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, said in a statement.
“We are all in this together. Canada is benefiting from the impressive and innovative power of our researchers at Saskatoon’s VIDO-InterVac in our national approach to fight COVID-19. Together, we are rapidly scaling up our capacity in research and in manufacturing to combat this pandemic.”
Currently, there is no vaccine for the novel coronavirus.
VIDO-InterVac is constructing a pilot-scale manufacturing facility on the University of Saskatchewan campus to accelerate vaccine development.
The federal government detailed companies getting $275 million on Monday as part of its previously announced $1-billion COVID-19 response fund.
Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:
Health officials caution against all international travel. All international travellers returning to Saskatchewan are required to self-isolate for 14 days in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others.
Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.
To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.
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