Sod-Turning Celebration Launches U of S International Vaccine Centre

Jun 24, 2007

Today representatives of all three levels of government and the Canada Foundation for Innovation turned the sod to launch construction of the International Vaccine Centre (InterVac) at the University of Saskatchewan, a $110.4-million project that will significantly enhance Canada’s capacity to fight infectious disease in both animals and humans.

"We are delighted to celebrate the visionary partnership that has made possible this state-of-the-art vaccine research lab to help save lives and prepare Canada for future public health risks," said U of S President Peter MacKinnon. "This project represents the largest investment to date in vaccine research in Canada and it will greatly enhance the unique cluster of world-class science research centres on our campus."

The Biosafety Level 3 research centre -- part of a national effort to address existing and emerging infectious diseases -- will be built on the U of S campus next to VIDO (Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization) by 2010. Excavation of the InterVac foundation will start next month. Roughly 400 jobs will be created during InterVac construction.

InterVac, which will be the largest vaccine research centre in Canada and one of the largest in North America, will develop new vaccines and new methods of delivering vaccines against diseases that may include tuberculosis, hepatitis C, SARS, HIV, and avian influenza.

Funding for the project comes from the Government of Canada ($49 million), the Canada Foundation for Innovation ($32.5 million), the Government of Saskatchewan ($24.78 million), the U of S ($3.85 million), and the City of Saskatoon ($250,000).

"Control of infectious diseases is a global concern," said Warren McCall, Saskatchewan Minister of Advanced Education and Employment. "Intervac will help put Saskatchewan researchers on the world stage."

"Canada's New Government is dedicated to working in partnership with other orders of government to protect the health and safety of Canadians," said Bradley Trost, Member of Parliament for Saskatoon-Humboldt on behalf of Canada’s New Government. "We have chosen to make a strategic investment in InterVac – an institution that will boost the country’s technology and knowledge infrastructure, attract more highly-skilled researchers to the community and accelerate the development of important new vaccines."

"Saskatoon took the lead in becoming the first municipality in Canada to invest directly in a major research and development project, the Canada Light Source synchrotron," said Mayor Donald Atchison. "We are proud to extend that innovative thinking with an investment in InterVac. These projects will attract top researchers from around the world to Saskatoon, where they will work on solutions to improve the quality of life at a global level."

"Once completed, InterVac will become one of the flagship vaccine research facilities not just in Canada, but around the world," said Dr. Eliot Phillipson, President and CEO of the Canada Foundation for Innovation. "This is an exciting project that reinforces the University of Saskatchewan’s reputation as one of the pre-eminent hotbeds of research in the country."

VIDO and InterVac will be operated as one entity. VIDO/InterVac is expected to become the research centrepiece of the new U of S School of Public Health and assume an increasingly important role in the development of Canada’s national infectious disease-fighting strategies.

Andrew Potter, currently VIDO’s associate director and an internationally recognized authority on vaccine development, will become VIDO/InterVac’s new director on July 1. He succeeds Lorne Babiuk.

While there are more than 90 Canadian laboratories with InterVac's biosafety rating (Level 3), InterVac will be one of the few Biosafety 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. Both Health Canada's Office of Laboratory Security and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency will be involved in regulating the safety of InterVac.

The U of S has set up an independent Community Liaison Committee to provide full and open communication regarding the safety of the world-class facility. Comprising up to 12 community participants, the CLC is chaired by Community Co-Chair Patricia Roe and the VIDO/InterVac Director. The CLC is directly accessible to the media and the public.