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$24M funding injection for vaccine research centre


Saskatoon, SK – The University of Saskatchewan’s cluster of life science research facilities has received a $24-million boost from the federal government.

Prime Minister Paul Martin made the announcement yesterday at a news conference at the university’s Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization (VIDO). The funding will support the development of a $61.8-million International Vaccine Centre (InterVac), which will be one of the largest vaccine research laboratories in North America when it is completed in 2009. The new facility will improve the capacity to develop vaccines to combat current and emerging diseases such as SARS, West Nile virus and avian influenza.

VIDO director Lorne Babiuk, lead champion of the InterVac project and a Canada research chair in vaccinology and biotechnology at the university, said InterVac will save lives and strengthen Canada’s leadership in infectious disease research, prevention and emergency response, as well as advance commercialization of research activities.

“It will vastly increase the breadth of research that we can do,” he says. “This new facility will build on VIDO’s world-class successes, leading to healthier animals and healthier humans on an even greater scale.”

InterVac, owned and operated by the university, represents an international collaboration that includes VIDO, the university’s College of Medicine, and the Western College of Veterinary Medicine, as well as academic, research and government institutions in Canada and abroad. Researchers will develop and test new vaccines and methods of delivering vaccines.

The new research centre will be the first “biosafety Level 3 facility” in western Canada dealing with both human and large animal diseases. Diseases are classified internationally on a scale of one to four. Level 3 diseases include tuberculosis and hepatitis C. Such facilities are federally regulated and built to exceed international biocontainment safety standards to protect workers, the environment, and society.

In March last year, the project was awarded $19.2 million by the Canada Foundation for Innovation, the largest CFI award in animal and human vaccine research. In addition, the university has contributed $300,000 to date to cover preliminary design and other initial project support costs, and the City of Saskatoon agreed last November to contribute $250,000 over five years. Other sources of public and private funding are in various stages of negotiation.

Operating costs will be covered by user fees, the university, and for the first five years, the CFI.

InterVac has attracted various partners and users, including the Canadian Public Health Agency, Health Canada, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, the International Vaccine Institute in Korea, the US National Institutes of Health, and the BC Centre for Disease Control.

The state-of-the-art laboratory will attract skilled medical researchers, graduate students, and research dollars, while contributing greatly to the student learning experience.

As well, InterVac will attract companies in the human and animal health sectors and bring many economic benefits to the city, the province and the region. It’s anticipated that more than $60 million in construction, engineering fees and other goods and services would be spent and/or delivered to the Saskatoon region over a four-year building period.