Saskatoon lab builds manufacturing facility for vaccines, including their own

A Saskatoon lab that is in the processes of testing its own COVID-19 vaccine is also building a manufacturing facility to produce homegrown vaccines.

Construction could be completed at end of year, facility projected to create 40M vaccine doses annually

Researchers work on a COVID-19 vaccine at Saskatoon’s Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization (VIDO) lab. (Bonnie Allen/CBC)

A Saskatoon lab that is in the processes of testing its own COVID-19 vaccine is also building a manufacturing facility to produce homegrown vaccines. 

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the University of Saskatchewan's Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization, VIDO-InterVac, will be able to produce up to 40 million doses annually. 

He touted it as "good news" during his daily press conference adding that Canada needs "as much domestic capacity for vaccine production as possible."

The federal government has previously contributed $46 million to the facility. Construction is expected to be completed by the end of the year. 

"Hopefully by next year we are ready to manufacture vaccines," CEO of VIDO-InterVac, Dr. Volker Gerdts told CBC's Morning Edition. "We hope to make up for some of the shortages Canada is seeing right now."

VIDO vaccine enters first phase of clinical trials

The Saskatoon's lab own vaccine has entered the combined Phase 1 and Phase 2 of its study. 

There are 108 healthy volunteers participating in the trial at the Canadian Centre for Vaccinology in Halifax. 

Dr. Volker Gerdts in a lab at the University of Saskatchewan. (VIDO-InterVac/University of Saskatchewan)

VIDO-InterVac has worked with the centre for decades "and they have the confidence by the regulator which is important if you want to move quickly," Gerdts said. 

Two doses will be administered to each volunteer 28 days apart. 

"The goal of this trial is to help demonstrate vaccine safety in people," said CCV principal investigator Dr. Joanne Langley said in a statement. "As part of this, we will monitor the health of the volunteers for a year after their vaccination." 

The volunteers have been split into three age groups, with each group receiving a different dose, Gerdts said. 

"If there are no adverse reactions, that allows us to move into Phase 2, which will be held in multiple sites across Canada," Gerdts said. 

LISTEN | Made in Sask. vaccine enters human trials:

Researcher hopes Canada is better prepared for vaccine manufacturing in the future

1 year ago
Duration 1:06
Volker Gerdts, a leading vaccine researcher at the University of Saskatchewan, says Canada should focus on manufacturing vaccines domestically to better prepare for future events. 

How the VIDO-Intervac vaccine differs from others 

VIDO-Intervac's vaccine does not require ultra-cold storage temperatures like other COVID-19 vaccines that have been approved by Health Canada.

This is because the lab is using a protein supplement, a technology that's used in several commercially available vaccines — including for hepatitis, diphtheria and whooping cough.

"We know it's a very safe technology. It's been used in humans for decades, each of us have received vaccines that are based on that principle, and we give it to our children," Gerdts said. 

"And we believe with the adjuvant we have in our vaccine, we think it's more effective against all these [coronavirus] variants that are coming out right now."

Since the vaccine entered clinical trials, the morale at the lab has been "really really high" said Gerdts. 

Employees have been working since last year to speed up the process as quickly as they can to provide a made-in-Canada vaccine. 

"Our vaccine is really focused on Canada," Gerdts said. "It's the Canadian market that we are most interested in."

WATCH | Researcher hopes Canada is better prepared for vaccine manufacturing in the future:


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?