VIDO-InterVac researchers are working on prototype vaccines to combat the new coronavirus outbreak. (Photo: David Stobbe)

Uniquely USask: VIDO-InterVac a world-class research facility

It is one of the largest and most advanced infectious disease research facilities in the world, with unique features that attract scientists from across the country and around the globe.

With researchers currently serving on the front lines in the world’s battle against COVID-19, the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization-International Vaccine Centre (VIDO-InterVac) at the University of Saskatchewan (USask) is garnering global attention.

Featuring approximately 285,000-square feet and more than $200 million in state-of-the-art containment Level 2 and 3 infrastructure, VIDO-InterVac was the first in the country to isolate SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, and was also the first lab in the country to test a vaccine in animal models.

“We are very well-positioned for this,” said VIDO-InterVac Director Dr. Volker Gerdts (DVM). “VIDO-InterVac is one of the largest Level 3 high-containment facilities in the world. There are four pathogen levels, and SARS-CoV-2 requires Level 3 containment.”


VIDO-InterVac’s work during the global pandemic is the latest in a long line of world-leading human and animal research initiatives that have taken place over the last few decades at the facility, from early research on calf scours in the 1970s, to African swine fever, SARS and Zika virus, to antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

“We are proud that our scientists at VIDO-InterVac—a world leader in developing vaccines against infectious diseases—are working with the National Research Council and other partners around the world to advance our efforts in combatting the global COVID-19 pandemic,” stated USask President Peter Stoicheff.

VIDO-InterVac, which was originally established in 1975 and held the grand opening of its containment Level 3 facility in 2011, has commercialized eight vaccines, and has been granted more than 110 patents in Canada and the United States.

Among its unique features, VIDO-InterVac has the country’s largest and most advanced containment Level 3 agriculture facility designed to support large animal and small animal efficacy trials. In addition to the buildings on campus, VIDO-InterVac has a 160-acre research station for containment Level 2 large animal studies.

Backed by new federal and provincial funding, VIDO-InterVac is now establishing Good Manufacturing Practices pilot-scale manufacturing in its containment Level 3 facility to produce human and animal vaccines.

“Current manufacturing capacity for flexible vaccine development is limited in Canada,” Gerdts said. “We want to build a manufacturing facility that allows us to manufacture vaccine candidates and take them into clinical testing for humans and for animals. Once established and fully operational, the manufacturing facility could also play a role in Canada’s emergency preparedness for (COVID-19) and other emerging infectious diseases.”
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