SASKATOON, SASK. — Officials in Saskatchewan have announced an additional $15 million to fund COVID-19 vaccine research infrastructure at the University of Saskatchewan.
The money will go towards support work being done by the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization (VIDO) at the university to develop and produce vaccines.
“This support from the Government of Saskatchewan is critical in strengthening VIDO’s position as a National Centre focused on pandemic research and preparedness,” said VIDO director Volker Gerdts in a statement. “The investment will help ensure the necessary infrastructure is in place to protect Canadians from future emerging infectious diseases.”
The $15 million provincial funding commitment is tied to Government of Canada funding for the project. The centre’s plans to build a vaccine production facility has already received funding from the City of Saskatoon and significant contributions from several private donors. The province has asked Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for $45 million in federal government support and ongoing operating funding for the project.
The funds will help support VIDO’s Centre for Pandemic Research, which requires an upgrade in its containment facilities. Containment Level 4 laboratories provide the capability to work safely with the most serious and deadly human and animal diseases. Currently the only level 4 facility in Canada is the National Microbiology Lab in Winnipeg.
VIDO’s current infrastructure was designed and built with the option to upgrade to Level 4 in the future. The facility has 2,000 square feet of existing lab space that is ready to be upgraded to meet Level 4 containment requirements.
The upgrades would enable researchers to house various species of animals, significantly reducing the time required to progress vaccine development to human clinical trials.
The upgrade would also give the facility the capacity to develop the workforce and train the talent needed for a resilient vaccine and therapeutic community in Canada.
The province has already provided VIDO with $4.2 million to research COVID-19 vaccines and build a new small-scale manufacturing facility. That facility is scheduled to be complete later this year.