U of S VIDO to lead centre of excellence in vaccine commercialization and research



    SASKATOON, SK, Feb. 14 /CNW/ - 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 QEII Health Centre), and the B.C. 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.
    For information about VIDO/InterVac, visit: www.vido.org




For further information:

For further information: Andrew Potter, VIDO/InterVac Director, (306)
966-7484; Tess Laidlaw, VIDO Communications, (306) 966-1506; Kathryn Warden, U
of S Research Communications Director, (306) 966-2506

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