Montreal

These Quebec professors are trying to develop a coronavirus vaccine

Researchers at two Quebec universities are working together in hopes of developing a new vaccine that could prevent COVID-19 and similar outbreaks. 

Vaccine could take at least a year to develop, research team says

Denis Leclerc and his colleagues at Laval University are hoping to develop a vaccine that could be stockpiled in case of future outbreaks. (Radio-Canada)

Researchers at two Quebec universities are working together in hopes of developing a new vaccine that could prevent COVID-19 and similar outbreaks. 

On Friday, the federal government announced it would be providing $27 million in grants to 47 Canadian research teams, in order for them to do more research into COVID-19. $2.1 million of that is dedicated to an infectious disease research team at Laval University. 

Denis Leclerc, a researcher at the university, said the infectious disease lab has been doing research on similar types of viral infections for the past 15 years. 

The team is hoping to develop a broad spectrum vaccine that would not only prevent the spread of COVID-19, but would also target similar viruses in case of future outbreaks. 

"We would be able to stockpile it and keep it on reserve for long periods of time," said Leclerc. 

Leclerc said they are basing much of their research off the 2002 SARS outbreak, as COVID-19 is similar to it in many ways. 

"The vaccine that we want to propose would basically protect people against both strains," said Leclerc. 

"We're targeting the proteins of the virus that are retained across all of its strains." 

Leclerc said his team could have a fully realized concept for a vaccine ready within the next six months, but getting the vaccine to a place where it could be used by the public would take a lot more time — and more money. 

"I have the money to prove our concept, but I don't have the money for clinical trials," said Leclerc.  

Leclerc will be working with Amine Kamen, a biomedical engineer at McGill University, for the next steps. 

Kamen's primary role in the research will be to generate antigens — toxins that urge the body to create antibodies in order to fight off disease. 

Amine Kamen's primary role in the research will be to generate antigens — toxins that urge the body to create antibodies in order to fight off disease.  (Radio-Canada)

By the time the vaccine goes through testing and clinical trials, it can take more than a year to reach the public, said Kamen. 

"Prior to any vaccine that gets approved there is a long sequence  of evaluations, of testing," said Kamen. 

"This will definitely take time for a vaccine that would be considered as a commercial vaccine. Experimental vaccines will come reasonably within the year." 

Because the vaccine could take so long, Kamen said researchers are focusing on developing a vaccine that could easily evolve in case the disease itself mutates. 

The two universities are among 47 research teams across the country who were given the federal grant. Teams at the University of Toronto and Dalhousie University are also working on COVID-19 research. 

With files from Radio-Canada and Lauren McCallum

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