The Ottawa Hospital partners with company to manufacture COVID-19 vaccine

The hospital's Biotherapeutics Manufacturing Centre is completing the last stage of manufacturing Entos Pharmaceuticals's vaccine, filling the vials before they are sent off to inoculate patients. 

Entos Pharmaceuticals hoping to start human clinical trials as soon as Health Canada approves

The Ottawa Hospital is helping to manufacture a made-in-Canada vaccine that will be going to clinical trials as soon as it gets Health Canada approval. (Paul Sancya/AP)

The Ottawa Hospital has formed a partnership to complete the final stage of manufacturing the Entos Pharmaceuticals COVID-19 vaccine, filling the vials before they are sent off to inoculate patients.

"It's very exciting because this is a Canadian-made vaccine," said Dr. Duncan Stewart, executive vice-president of research at The Ottawa Hospital. "We need more vaccines and we need vaccines that are made in Canada."

Entos Pharmaceuticals is an Alberta company working on a DNA-based vaccine against COVID-19 that will work by delivering genes from SARS-CoV-2 into the body. The body's cells then use those instructions to make coronavirus proteins, exposing the immune system to them so it can learn to recognize and fight off SARS-CoV-2.

It is a single-dose vaccine that can be stored at room temperature for up to a month and in a fridge for a year. 

In an email, Entos CEO John Lewis said 400 vials have been manufactured for Phase 1 of the clinical trials, which the company hopes to start as soon as it receives approval from Health Canada.

If all goes to plan, Phase 2 will start in mid-June and run through the summer but plans for Phase 3 are still up in the air. 

"The requirements [for Phase 3] are changing almost daily. If we are able to secure sufficient funding, we can still get emergency authorization before the end of the year," Lewis's email said. 

Part of a larger manufacturing trend

Regardless of when the last stage of the trial starts, this vaccine won't be ready for the current COVID-19 rollout. But it's part of a larger trend in Canada to bring back domestic vaccine production, said Patrick Saunders-Hastings, an epidemiologist and instructor in Carleton University's health sciences department. 

He said Canada used to manufacture its own vaccines back in the 1970s but now the country relies heavily on imports. He pointed out how this pandemic has shown manufacturing delays and other issues can have a negative impact on getting doses into Canadian arms. 

Patrick Saunders-Hastings is director of life sciences and environmental health at Gevity Consulting. He says the fact that vaccine manufacturing is being developed in Canada is a positive sign for future pandemic responses. (Submitted by Patrick Saunders-Hastings)

"I think as we look forward one, two and three years and beyond, having this sort of capacity in Ottawa, and Canada more generally, is really essential," Saunders-Hastings said. 

Stewart agrees, saying experts are predicting COVID-19 will be around for at least a couple of years, meaning vaccines will be needed in the future. 

"We're creating now the capability, and what we need to do is put into place the infrastructure in Canada so that we can produce vaccines rapidly as needed," he said. 

The Ottawa Hospital also announced Thursday it would be manufacturing two other vaccines for clinical trials.

With files from Emily Chung

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