The Government of Saskatchewan has committed $15 million to support the University of Saskatchewan’s (USask) Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization’s (VIDO) position as a Centre for Pandemic Research.
The support will contribute to upgrading and expanding VIDO’s containment infrastructure and support its role in Canada’s response to emerging infectious diseases. Scientific training will also be a fundamental component of the centre’s goals.
VIDO has more than 45 years of expertise researching emerging infectious diseases and developing vaccines. The centre will leverage over $225 million in containment infrastructure already in place, including the International Vaccine Centre (InterVac) one of the largest and most advanced containment level 3-agricuture (CL3-Ag) research facilities in the world. VIDO is also constructing a pilot-scale vaccine manufacturing facility in InterVac.
This funding is in addition to the $250,000 committed by the City of Saskatoon last week.
“Infectious diseases continue to pose a threat to Canada and the world,” said VIDO Director and CEO Dr. Volker Gerdts. “This centre will help ensure that Canada has the research and development capacity to be prepared for the emerging human and animal infectious diseases of the future.”
To work with all human and animal pathogens, VIDO plans to upgrade areas of its CL3 facility to the highest containment level (CL4). This space would complement the only other CL4 labs in Canada at the Public Health Agency of Canada’s National Microbiology Laboratory and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s National Centre for Foreign Animal Disease in Winnipeg.
VIDO also aims to expand its pre-clinical research and development capacity with a new containment level 2 animal facility that would house a wide range of animals, including bats.
“The centre builds on VIDO’s roots in veterinary medicine and expertise in developing animal models of disease,” said Ryan Thompson Chair of VIDO’s board of directors. “This is important as most new and emerging human infectious diseases originate in animals.”
VIDO has been at the forefront of Canada’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic — this includes being the first in Canada to isolate SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, the first to develop an animal model of disease, and is now the first university organization to have a COVID-19 vaccine in clinical trials. In addition, VIDO has engaged with over 80 organizations throughout Canada and the world to support the development of their novel vaccines, antivirals and therapeutics in an effort to help end the ongoing pandemic.