“This funding really will allow us to invest in vaccine research and equipment here at VIDO and really strengthen(s) our vision of becoming Canada’s Center for Pandemic Research,” Dr. Volker Gerdts said.
The lab’s director and CEO told Global News the $150,000 from the Hospitals of Regina Foundation will help develop the forthcoming top-tier research facility, which VIDO is currently building.
The federal government already pledged $59.2 million and the Saskatchewan government committed $15 million, but Gerdts said the agreement with current funders (which includes private donors and the City of Saskatoon) requires the lab to raise an additional $5 million.
Once the new facility is in place, Gerdts said it will help provide answers about SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19, and whatever other viruses may emerge while allowing scientists to prepare vaccines with greater speed.
“Canada maybe wasn’t as (well) prepared as it could have been, both on the research side, on the research capacity, but also on the manufacturing side and the manufacturing capacity,” he said, adding the new centre will address those shortcomings.
Some of the necessary research he pointed to is the work being done by Alyson Kelvin.
Kelvin studies how COVID-19 continues to affect some people — the so-called “long-haulers.”
In a recent paper, she and her co-authors identified how the disease damages the organs of those infected who continue to suffer.
“We can now take that signature (left by inflammation from the body fighting the virus) and start developing therapeutics or therapies specific to those areas, such as the heart or the kidneys,” she said.
“(The findings) will hopefully help other researchers, both basic science as well as clinical researchers.”
Kelvin told Global News the research is potentially applicable for anyone infected with the disease because data shows anyone infected could suffer symptoms over the long-term.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re older or younger, or experienced severe COVID-19 or mild COVID-19,” she explained. “There’s no connection between that clinical picture and how you might experience long-haulers disease.”
Gerdts said the applications of VIDO’s work on COVID-19 and other diseases will be universal.
Canada is doing very well in the global race to get vaccinated, but many other countries aren’t.
Gerdts told Global News he’s working on an arrangement to send VIDO’s coronavirus vaccine, currently in the second stage of clinical trials, to Africa.
VIDO’s subunit protein vaccine (as opposed to mRNA vaccines) are “very cost-effective, very stable, easy to transport,” according to Gerdts.
Gerdts said the lab is hoping to announce other funding arrangements in the near future.