Community Liaison Committee Launched for U of S InterVac

May 8, 2007

The University of Saskatchewan has set up an independent Community Liaison Committee to ensure full and open communication on safety issues related to the International Vaccine Centre (InterVac), soon to be Canada's newest lab for protecting animals and humans against emerging diseases.

The $110.3-million Biosafety Level 3 research centre - part of a national effort to address established and emerging infectious diseases -- will be built on the U of S campus next to VIDO (Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization) by 2010. Site preparation could start as early as this month.

"Full and open two-way communication is vital to ensure the community has confidence in the safety of this world-class facility which will be one of North America's largest vaccine research labs," said U of S Vice-President Research Steven Franklin in announcing the first appointments to the CLC.

The committee will provide a permanent liaison between the Saskatoon community and InterVac, ensuring mutual understanding of any issues of public concern. Comprising up to 12 community participants, the CLC will be chaired by Community Co-Chair Patricia Roe and InterVac/VIDO Director Lorne Babiuk. It will be directly accessible to the media and the public.

"This is an important step in ensuring the public is well informed about InterVac and that there are opportunities for on-going dialogue," said Roe, a former Saskatoon city councillor. "Winnipeg's Canadian Science Centre for Human and Animal Health has a similar committee that has been highly effective in keeping the public informed and consulted on an ongoing basis. We will be working with the centre to provide the public with the best possible information."

The CLC will be responsible for seeking information on activities of community concern, as well as for monitoring issues related to safety and any incidents of potential public interest. The committee can direct any unresolved concerns to the U of S Vice-President Research, the U of S President, and appropriate government and regulatory officials, with the authority to take the issue to the public at large if necessary.

Committee members were selected to reflect a cross-section of community interests. Each participant is appointed for three years, with one-third of the members to be replaced or re-appointed every year starting with the third year of operation. The CLC will invite nominations from the community for new members.

The first appointees, in addition to the co-chairs, are:

  • Dr. Peter Barrett, physician, former president of the Canadian Medical Association
  • Dick Batten, QC, lawyer and Sutherland resident
  • Brian Bentley, City of Saskatoon Fire Chief
  • Roy Dobson, President of the Varsity View Community Association
  • Noreen Jeffrey, educator
  • John LaClare, agribusiness
  • Susan Lamb, CEO of the Meewasin Valley Authority
  • Claire Macsymic, member at large
  • Dr. Cory Neudorf, Chief Medical Health Officer for the Saskatoon Health Region

The CLC will supplement the University's ongoing communications and interaction with the community, stakeholders, media and regulatory agencies with regard to InterVac.

About InterVac
InterVac will significantly enhance Canada's capacity to develop and test new vaccines for both humans and animals, as well as develop new methods of delivering these vaccines. Diseases to be studied may include tuberculosis, hepatitis C, SARS, HIV, and avian influenza.

While there are more than 90 Canadian laboratories with InterVac's biosafety rating (Level 3), InterVac will be one of the few Level 3 labs in the world that can undertake vaccine testing with large animals such as cows. This advantage is expected to attract researchers from around the world.

"InterVac will be built to exceed international biocontainment safety standards and its many special design features will ensure the safety of workers, the community and the environment," said VIDO director Babiuk, noting that air will be filtered, and effluent filtered and sterilized. Both Health Canada's Office of Laboratory Security and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency will be involved in regulating the safety of InterVac.