University of Saskatchewan researchers and collaborating scientists have been awarded nearly $1 million over two years to develop animal models and test vaccine candidates for effectiveness and safety against the new coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2). Led by University of Saskatchewan’s Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization-International Vaccine Centre (VIDO-InterVac), they are part of a Canadian-wide $26.7-million rapid research funding initiative targeting efforts to contain the coronavirus outbreak.
The Collaborative Effort Leverages State-of-Art Facility and Expertise
The 12-member team is led by Darryl Falzarano with VIDO-InterVac and includes scientists from VIDO-InterVac, Dalhouse University, the National Microbiology Laboratory, the National Centre for Foreign Animal Disease, and University of Manitoba. With the University of Saskatchewan in the lead, the group will leverage VIDO-InterVac’s containment level 3 facility, which was built for the development of vaccines in response to global emerging infectious disease threats of the type now faced with SARS-CoV-2, reported Dr. Volker Gerdts, project co-applicant and director of VIDO-InterVac.
With one of the most advanced containment level 3 facilities in the world and a world-class interdisciplinary scientific team, VIDO-InterVac is ideally positioned as the lead, reported Dr. Falzarano. The University is well recognized for specializing in animal models for human diseases, including models for MERS-CoV, Zika, TB, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and pertussis.
Pilot-Scale Vaccine Manufacturing Facility
As part of this initiative, the University of Saskatchewan-based team will build a pilot-scale vaccine manufacturing facility to help improve the nation’s response and emergency preparedness to emerging threats such as the one now faced. By building this facility, the researchers will be able to make large amounts of clinical-grade vaccines for testing not only in animal models, but also in regard to human clinical trials. The goal: dramatically reduce the response time to develop a vaccine in emergency situations, reports Dr. Falzarano.
Global Race to Find Best Animal Model for Disease Replication
VIDO-InterVac specializes in the deployment and testing of animal models enabling researchers greater understanding how a virus such as SARS-CoV-2 is transmitted, as well as to evaluate vaccines, antiviral medications, and drugs to protect animals and humans. “The global race is on to find out which is the best animal model for replicating the disease observed in humans. Is it mice, hamsters or ferrets? Whichever model works best is the one we’re going to use. Once the model is developed, we will then be able to test our vaccine candidates for effectiveness” reports Gerdts. He also noted that the VIDO-InterVac team will make animal models available for other researchers.
Darryl Falzarano, PhD, Director VIDO-InterVac
Dr. Volker Gerdts, director & CEO, VIDO-InterVac
Vladi Karniychuk, PhD
Qiang Liu, PhD
Sylvia van den Hurk, PhD
Call to Action: The University of Saskatchewan based team seeks to ultimately not only establish animal models, but also develop a pan-coronavirus vaccine applicable to multiple coronaviruses. TrialSite News will track—for updates, sign up for the daily newsletter or contact us to learn more about our intelligent clinical research broker program.