Calgary firm advances new trial, manufacturing of mRNA vaccine for COVID-19

OTTAWA — Calgary-based Providence Therapeutics says it has signed two contracts to have its developmental mRNA vaccine for COVID-19 manufactured in Canada.

The company says it has signed a $90-million, five-year contract with Emergent Biosolutions to make part of the drug substance, and also to fill and finish the vaccine, at its Winnipeg manufacturing plant.

Another $15-million contract was signed with Calgary's Northern RNA firm to make some of the raw materials needed to produce the messenger RNA in the vaccine.

Providence this week reported that a Phase 1 trial, involving 60 adults between 18 and 64, showed its mRNA vaccine is producing immunity levels comparable to those produced by authorized mRNA vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.

A Phase 2 clinical trial in 525 people is now about to begin to further test the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine.

Canada has yet to authorize a made-in-Canada vaccine for COVID-19 and has relied mostly on importing mRNA vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna.

As of Tuesday, 26 million Canadians have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and another 2.4 million people have received their first dose.

Canada's lacklustre manufacturing capacity for vaccines was a major issue heading into the COVID-19 vaccination procurement process and the federal government is working to expand the industry.

The vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer are the first mRNA products authorized for widespread use and have been critical to helping slow the COVID-19 pandemic in Canada and elsewhere.

The technology is being researched for use on a number of other conditions including cancers and influenza.

Moderna recently signed an agreement to build a manufacturing plant for its mRNA vaccine somewhere in Canada, but the location has yet to be chosen. Earlier this week Moderna announced it has also signed a contract with National Resilience for the latter to start producing the mRNA used in Moderna's vaccine.

The federal government last spring invested almost $200 million to help Resilience expand its manufacturing facility in Mississauga, Ont., so it can make more vaccines, including mRNA vaccines.

Emergent BioSolutions is based in Maryland and has multiple facilities in the U.S., Canada and Europe. The company was heavily criticized earlier this year when a mistake in manufacturing at one site in Baltimore, Md., led to the destruction of at least 60 million doses of Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 14, 2021.

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press

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