Volume 12, Number 14 March 18, 2005

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Feds add millions to vaccine research through InterVac

Calling it “a further step in our commitment to increasing funding for health care”, Prime Minister Paul Martin announced in Saskatoon March 16 his government will contribute $24 million over four years to the International Vaccine Centre (InterVac) at the University of Saskatchewan.

Prime Minister Paul Martin

Prime Minister Paul Martin

The human and animal vaccine development work that will be done at InterVac holds the potential for preventing existing and emerging infectious diseases from “reaching, touching, harming Canadians,” Martin said. He pointed to the regional SARS epidemic in Toronto and the “ominous signs” of an influenza pandemic as evidence Canada “must be prepared for the possibility of a much larger threat”.

Expected to open in 2009, InterVac will include Saskatchewan’s first Level-3 laboratories which have the biological security and containment necessary to handle diseases like SARS, West Nile virus, BSE, hepatitis C and tuberculosis.

InterVac will build on the vaccine research and development success of the University’s Vaccine & Infectious Disease Organization (VIDO) in partnership with the College of Medicine and the Western College of Veterinary Medicine. It will be owned and operated by the U of S, which, the prime minister said, has “already established itself as a centre of excellence in innovation”.

Martin made the announcement to a room full of University officials, VIDO staff and researchers as well as civic and other dignitaries including Saskatoon Mayor Don Atchison. His brief stop on campus was part of a four-day swing through western Canada.

Funding for the $61.8-million InterVac comes from various quarters. Martin’s announcement includes $19 million from the federal government’s 2005 budget and $5 million from Western Economic Diversification Canada. In March 2004, the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) announced $19 million in support of the project, and even the City of Saskatoon is on board with $250,000 over five years.

U of S President Peter MacKinnon said the institution “has charted a course to developing our research and teaching capacity” and the March 16 announcement supports that objective. It is also “a generous statement of the confidence” the government has in the University.

Speaking, like the prime minister, in both official languages, MacKinnon said the vision of InterVac as a leader in bioscience research and international commercialization is one “that can best be realized at a campus like ours” with its combination of human, animal and health sciences.

Andrew Potter, associate director of VIDO, told the audience infectious diseases account for about one-third of all deaths on Earth annually, and vaccines like those to be developed by InterVac are the most cost-effective form of disease control known.

Once up and running, user fees and the University will cover InterVac’s operating costs. It is expected partners and users will include the local health regions, Health Canada, the International Vaccine Institute in Korea and the U.S. National Institute of Health.

For more information, contact communications.office@usask.ca

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