Premier Scott Moe and VIDO-InterVac Director Dr. Volker Gerdts made an announcement today in Regina regarding $15 million to support world-leading research in Saskatchewan. The Government of Saskatchewan has committed this new money to further support the pandemic research that is done by Vaccine and Infectious Disease (VIDO) at the University of Saskatchewan.
Premier Moe stated, “COVID-19 has demonstrated the importance of Canada being a leader in research, development and production of new vaccines. The place that should happen is right here in Saskatchewan, at VIDO-InterVac in Saskatoon.” The City of Saskatoon has already committed funding to this project as well several private donors have made significant contributions. VIDO-InterVac has requested $45 million in funding from the federal government and Premier Moe said his government has also formally written to Ottawa to support this request. The Premier stated that this funding will support VIDO’s Centre for Pandemic Research upgrade to a Level 4 containment facility. Laboratories which are rated as a Level 4 containment facility have the safety measures necessary to work safely with the most serious and deadly human and animal diseases. Currently, the National Microbiology Lab in Winnipeg is the only such facility in Canada. VIDO’s original design of the 2000 square foot lab made it possible for future enhancement to Level 4 capability. The Centre will also provide critical animal housing for multiple species and significantly reduce the time required to advance vaccine development to human clinical trials.
The Premier affirmed that he has, in his discussions with his federal colleagues, received very positive responses to calls for the support of VIDO. Premier Moe was adamant that this is a good investment not only for people in Saskatchewan but also for the people of Canada. Dr. Gerdts that he as well has had numerous conversations with relevant ministries including the Prime Minister’s office and the Privy Council, of the importance of having a centre dedicated to emerging diseases here in Canada. “The investment [from the Government of Saskatchewan] will help ensure the necessary infrastructure is in place to protect Canadians from future emerging infectious diseases.”
The Premier also shared that the Roy Romanow Lab in Regina is currently working through the process of getting accredited to test for the new variants of COVID-19 that are now being discovered in the province and he expects that process to be completed by early March. To date there are six confirmed cases of the new variants and one suspected case in the province and once that accreditation is completed the results of new variants testing will be available within a few days as opposed to a week or two as currently exists.
The production facility that is being built at the University is not only being built to manufacture VIDO’s vaccine, but it will also be capable of manufacturing all the vaccines currently available except for the mRNA ones as they require some very specialized material and processes. If a facility such as the one being built ahd already existed in the province, Dr. Gerdts stated that the vaccine developed by VIDO-InterVac would have been in clinical trails six months earlier. The research and development that was carried out by VIDO was among the first in the world, but they were stymied by having to wait for outside agencies to manufacture the materials needed to progress to those critical trials. An in-house facility would have totally eliminated that lag time and we could have been vaccine developed and produced here in Canada rather than playing the waiting game that we are now. The infrastructure is already in place and the facility at the University of Saskatchewan is the largest high containment facility in Canada and to Dr. Gerdts it only makes sense that the funding should be approved so that all research and development can be done in one place where they can house the animals these new virus’ are transmitting from and give scientists the advantage they need to meet new emergent diseases head on. The Centre for Pandemic Research will give VIDO “the capacity to develop the workforce and train the talent needed for a resilient vaccine and therapeutic ecosystem in Canada.”
Carol Baldwin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Wakaw Recorder