U of S International Vaccine Centre Celebrates Grand Opening

Sep 16, 2011

SASKATOON – Canada's capacity to prevent and fight infectious diseases got a major boost today with the grand opening of the $140-million International Vaccine Centre (InterVac) at the University of Saskatchewan (U of S). InterVac is the largest facility of its kind in North America.

The state-of-the-art vaccine research centre—one of the largest of its kind in the world—uses the most advanced technologies to develop vaccines against new and re-emerging infectious diseases safely and more quickly than ever before.

"This stellar addition to our unique life sciences cluster is an important national resource that will advance development of the next generation of vaccines to protect animal and human health, while fostering international collaborations and partnerships to help prevent a global pandemic," said U of S President Peter MacKinnon.

The opening was attended by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall and Saskatoon Mayor Donald Atchison.

"We are extremely grateful for the support and confidence from all three levels of government in this outstanding project which represents the country's largest investment in vaccine research infrastructure to date," MacKinnon said.

Capital funding included $49 million from the Government of Canada through various agencies, $32.5 million from the Canada Foundation for Innovation, $57.1 million from the Province of Saskatchewan, $1.2 million from the University of Saskatchewan, and $250,000 from the City of Saskatoon.

Operating as part of the U of S's Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization (VIDO), the new containment level 3 InterVac facility provides specially designed facilities for scientists to safely conduct research into diseases such as tuberculosis, hepatitis C, HIV/AIDS, SARS, influenza, and prion diseases such as chronic wasting disease and mad cow disease.

InterVac will enable larger-scale vaccine research and development than is currently possible in Canada and will help alleviate a worldwide shortage of specialized containment facility space for addressing many re-emerging and emerging diseases, the majority of which originate in animals. Scientists from across Canada and around the world will be able to use the facility.''

"InterVac enhances our capacity to develop new tools, technologies and policies for preventing disease and saving both human and animal lives," said U of S Vice-President Research Karen Chad. "Through collaborative research and a wide array of partnerships, we are at the forefront of integrating human, animal, and ecosystem health to address threats to the 'one health' we all share."

The U of S is the only university in Canada that combines on a single campus a CL3 vaccine research centre with veterinary, agricultural, and medical schools. InterVac is one of the few CL3 research facilities in the world with an educational mandate, providing high-calibre training opportunities for graduate students.''

"InterVac ushers in a new era of vaccine research in Western Canada," said VIDO-InterVac Director and CEO Andrew Potter. "This facility greatly enhances our capacity to develop vaccines and new methods of delivering them to animals and humans, and our ability to address questions of food and water safety for all Canadians."

Producer groups, companies, and academic and government scientists are already lined up to use InterVac. "When we begin operations in the spring of 2012, we expect to be operating at close to full capacity," said Dr. Paul Hodgson, associate director of business development. "Our number one goal is to help get vaccines to the user much sooner than ever before."

The dual-wing InterVac building includes containment laboratories for research and training of graduate students, as well as an animal wing with multi-species accommodation.

The facility is currently in a commissioning process and will then undergo certification to ensure it meets the safety standards of the Public Health Agency of Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. It is expected to be operational in early 2012.