The Saskatchewan Government is pledging another $15 million towards pandemic research in the province.
The investment, announced on February 23rd, will go into the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization (VIDO) Centre for Pandemic Research at the University of Saskatchewan. Among uses for the funds will be upgrading the building to house Level 4 containment facilities.
Containment Level 4 laboratories will allow VIDO to safely research the most serious and deadly human and animal diseases. When the work is done, this will be only the second place in Canada to have these abilities, joining the National Microbiology Lab in Winnipeg.
VIDO Director Dr. Volker Gerdts says this capacity will make them able to prepare and protect Canadians from future emerging infectious diseases.
The centre has 2000 square feet of existing space which has already been made to be Level 4 Ready. Part of this will also involve the housing of multiple species of animal, which VIDO says will significantly reduce the time required to advance vaccine development to human clinical trials.
It will also give VIDO the room to train the workforce needed for a resilient vaccine and therapeutic ecosystem within the country.
Premier Scott Moe notes that COVID-19 has shown the importance of Canada leading vaccine research for many diseases, and VIDO’s work with the COVID-19 vaccine and others will strengthen their position as leading research experts in Canada.
The funding is contingent on being matched by the Federal Government, along with investment from the City of Saskatoon and private donors. Premier Moe has also written to Ottawa requesting their support in the form of VIDO-InterVac’s request for $45 million in funds and operating cost help.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, the Government of Saskatchewan has provided VIDO-InterVac $4.2 million to create a COVID-19 vaccine and construct a new small-scale manufacturing facility to be completed later this year.