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Saskatchewan government commits $15M to pandemic research at VIDO

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WATCH: The province made a major funding promise for Saskatchewan's efforts to find a cure for COVID-19 and bring world-class vaccine development to the Prairies.

The Saskatchewan government is committing $15 million to the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization in Saskatoon to support further pandemic research.

Premier Scott Moe said the COVID-19 pandemic shows why Canada needs to be a leader in the research, development and production of vaccines.

“The place that should happen is right here in Saskatchewan, at VIDO-InterVac in Saskatoon,” Moe said Tuesday in a statement.

“VIDO has made world-first breakthroughs and achieved significant momentum in vaccine and disease research, most recently with COVID-19 vaccine development, and this new facility will strengthen their position as Canada’s Centre for Pandemic Research.”

Read more: City of Saskatoon signals support for new $65M VIDO vaccine lab

However, Moe said provincial funding is contingent on the federal government committing funds to the project.

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Moe said he has written a letter to the federal government supporting VIDO’s request for $45 million for the project.

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Saskatchewan government commits $15M to support pandemic research in province

The City of Saskatoon has committed $250,000 to the $65-million project — contingent on federal and provincial funding. The project has also received funding from private donors.

VIDO director Dr. Volker Gerdts said Canada needs the infrastructure to deal with infectious diseases.

“This support from the government of Saskatchewan is critical in strengthening VIDO’s position as a National Centre focused on pandemic research and preparedness,” Gerdts said in a statement.

“The investment will help ensure the necessary infrastructure is in place to protect Canadians from future emerging infectious diseases.”

Click to play video 'Coronavirus: VIDO-InterVac director explains vaccine, variant research being conducted in Saskatchewan' Coronavirus: VIDO-InterVac director explains vaccine, variant research being conducted in Saskatchewan
Coronavirus: VIDO-InterVac director explains vaccine, variant research being conducted in Saskatchewan

If the project goes ahead, VIDO will upgrade to a Level 4 containment facility, the highest level possible.

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VIDO says it has existing lab space that can easily be upgraded to meet Level 4 containment requirements.

The only Level 4 facility currently in Canada is the National Microbiology Lab in Winnipeg.

VIDO said the funding will also allow it to become a world leader in vaccine distribution, with the ability to produce between 20 and 40 million doses a year depending on the complexities of the vaccine.

Read more: Clinical trials start for VIDO’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate

Clinical trials for a COVID-19 vaccine candidate developed at VIDO got underway on Feb. 10 when the first of 108 healthy adult volunteers received injections in Halifax.

The placebo-controlled study at the Canadian Center for Vaccinology in Halifax will administer two doses to each volunteer, 28 days apart.

Dubbed COVAC-2, it’s the first of two subunit vaccines by VIDO to enter clinical testing. Subunit vaccines contain purified viral proteins that are not infectious, and employ technology already used in vaccines for hepatitis, diphtheria and whooping cough.

— With files from Nathaniel Dove and The Canadian Press

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City of Saskatoon signals support for new $65M VIDO vaccine lab – Feb 16, 2021