Saskatoon

U of Sask. could help prepare for outbreaks by producing human vaccines for Canada, centre director says

Canadians would be forced to rely on foreign supplies of life-saving vaccines in the event of an outbreak, but a group of University of Saskatchewan researchers is hoping to change that.

Canada relies on foreign supplies during outbreaks

Scientists with the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization-International Vaccine Centre (VIDO-InterVac) at the University of Saskatchewan research animal vaccines, but its CEO says they could soon produce human vaccines. (Jennifer Quesnel/CBC)

Canadians would be forced to rely on foreign supplies of life-saving vaccines in the event of an outbreak, but a group of University of Saskatchewan researchers is hoping to change that.

"It's important that we think about these situations and make sure that we're prepared for the next outbreak," said Volker Gerdts, director and CEO of the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization-International Vaccine Centre (VIDO-InterVac) at the U of S.

VIDO-InterVac is one of the few institutes in Canada equipped to handle the world's most dangerous viruses. Its researchers work on vaccines to prevent and combat animal diseases such as swine flu and Zika virus.

But many of these diseases can hop from animals to humans, and Canada is forced to rely on foreign suppliers for its human vaccines.

Volker Gerdts, CEO of VIDO-InterVac at the University of Saskatchewa, says they could manufacture human vaccines to prevent the spread of viruses. Canada currently relies on foreign suppliers in the event of an outbreak. (Jennifer Quesnel/CBC)

Gerdts said VIDO-InterVac could take the next step and start manufacturing small quantities of vaccines for humans. That would give Canada a more reliable supplier in the event of an outbreak.

"For the country to be prepared for it, we need manufacturing facilties," Gerdts said. "Right now, Canada has a shortage of these."

Gerdts says it would cost between $8 million and $10 million to build a proper manufacturing facility on campus.

He said discussions have begun with regulatory bodies about the rules for such a facility. He hopes to to secure funding and begin work in the next 12 months.

With files from Jennifer Quesnel

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