VIDO key stakeholder in Centre of Excellence for Commercialization and Research

Feb 13, 2008

The University of Saskatchewan will lead a $25.5-million national Centre of Excellence for Commercialization and Research aimed at fast-tracking vaccine development for diseases of major public health concern such as pandemic influenza, whooping cough, chlamydia, “mad cow” disease, and severe diarrheal diseases.

Today federal Industry Minister Jim Prentice announced $15 million towards the new national non-profit research corporation which will be known as the Pan-Provincial Vaccine Enterprise (PREVENT). In-kind support of $10.5 million will come from the U of S and two other institutions—the Canadian Centre for Vaccinology (a partnership among Dalhousie University, IWK Health Centre and Capital Health), and the BC Centre for Disease Control.

PREVENT will be headquartered at the U of S Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization (VIDO), one of the premier research facilities in the world for infectious disease research which will be augmented by 2010 with the International Vaccine Centre (InterVac).

“PREVENT will help drive the nation’s vaccine research agenda and co-ordinate graduate student training in a unique environment,” said VIDO/InterVac Director Andrew Potter.

“The activities of PREVENT will help reduce the risk of infectious diseases by taking promising early-stage vaccine candidates through pre-clinical development and Phase I human trials, thus adding significant value to them and increasing the chances of developing marketable vaccines,” he said.

PREVENT will develop vaccines for both human and animal hosts with a focus on pathogens transmitted from animals to humans. Since the human immune system is more similar to that of larger mammals (such as swine) than to the mouse immune system, the combination of small- and large-animal testing will ultimately reduce risk during product development.

PREVENT will focus on new vaccines for diseases for which there are currently no available vaccines. One example is respiratory syncytial virus, a major cause of respiratory disease in infants. In the U.S., the virus causes 4,500 deaths each year.

The non-profit corporation will also work to improve existing vaccines, by evaluating new formulations that reduce adverse effects, enhance protection, improve vaccine delivery and lower production costs, especially for vaccines against diseases such as influenza, E. coli O157, measles and whooping cough.

Potter noted that the inability to create vaccines for all infectious diseases of medical significance costs the Canadian health care system more than $3 billion a year—a figure that will rise as the population ages.

“PREVENT will help Canada rise to this challenge by creating an efficient system of vaccine development that will also strengthen Canada’s vaccine industry and promote growth, investment and improved global competitiveness,” he said.

PREVENT will benefit Saskatchewan through a focus on diseases transmitted from animals to humans such as diarrheal diseases and BSE, as well as infections which affect high risk populations such as whooping cough, meningitis, and chlamydia, he said.

The approximately $15-million award will have a significant impact on U of S life sciences research over the next five years by fostering multidisciplinary interactions at a national level among researchers in areas such as public health, commerce, and vaccinology, Potter said.

PREVENT will consult with experts in public health, the vaccine industry and the investment community to identify promising vaccine candidates most likely to meet Canada’s health needs, and will work with industry partners, including biotechnology firms, contract manufacturing organizations and pharmaceutical companies to propel these vaccine candidates through development.

PREVENT is one of 11 new national centres of research and commercialization awarded funding out of 25 proposals. The program is overseen by the Networks of Centres of Excellence (NCE) Steering Committee, which includes the presidents of the three federal granting agencies—the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), the Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR), and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC)—and the President of the Canada Foundation for Innovation.