New $24 million InterVac funding to benefit Canadian livestock industry

Mar 22, 2005

Canada's livestock industry stands to benefit dramatically from a new $24-million commitment for the planned International Vaccine Centre (InterVac) at the University of Saskatchewan.

The new centre will greatly extend national capacity for large-animal research toward vaccines and delivery technologies to fight infection, leading to healthier animals.

Prime Minister Paul Martin announced the funding on behalf of the Government of Canada at the University of Saskatchewan's Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization (VIDO) March 16.

“InterVac will be Saskatchewan's first Level 3 laboratory dealing with human and animal diseases, and the only one with our level of capacity for large animal research,” says Dr. Lorne Babiuk of VIDO, the lead proponent of InterVac. “InterVac is essential for understanding the disease-causing mechanisms of important pathogens and devising methods of control,” says VIDO Director Babiuk.

Created to tackle the negative economic impacts of significant diseases of livestock, VIDO has developed seven vaccine products to date against diseases of cattle, poultry and swine. The new facility will allow VIDO and collaborators to tackle emerging high-profile challenges such as West Nile virus and avian influenza, along with more routine livestock disease concerns, says Babiuk.

Research activities to take place at InterVac include studies of the mechanisms by which infectious agents cause disease, host responses to infection, development of novel diagnostic methods, and development of vaccines along with novel vaccine delivery systems.

The planned $61.8-million facility will be one of the largest biosafety level 3 vaccine research laboratories in North America when completed in 2009. InterVac is a collaboration among VIDO, the university's College of Medicine and the Western College of Veterinary Medicine, as well as academic, research and government institutions in Canada and abroad. The Government of Canada funding is in addition to $19.2 million already contributed to InterVac by the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI). Other sources of public and private funding are in various stages of negotiation.

Many of the emerging or re-emerging diseases for which vaccines are in need of development are officially classified at containment Level 3. Internationally, disease agents are classified on a scale of 1 to 4 based on the seriousness of infection caused. Level 1 organisms are not known to cause disease in healthy animals or humans, and Level 2 diseases may pose moderate risks. Level 3 diseases, such as BSE, SARS, hepatitis C, influenza and tuberculosis (TB), have a greater potential of transmission and cause serious infections.

VIDO is renowned for the R&D and commercialization of products used by producers in the food animal industry. It is credited with five "world firsts" in animal vaccine research, and is expanding into human health applications. VIDO is a financially self-reliant, non-profit organization owned by the University of Saskatchewan and operates with support from the governments of Alberta and Saskatchewan as well as Government of Canada and industry competitive grants.

Western Economic Diversification Canada is delivering the $24 million. Funding for this initiative was provided for in the February 2005 Federal Budget. More details on the announcement are available on the Western Economic Diversification Canada Web site, and the University of Saskatchewan Web site