VIDO-InterVac at the University of Saskatchewan. (Photo: Debra Marshall)

USask’s VIDO-InterVac and the National Research Council of Canada collaborate to advance development of vaccine against COVID-19

Key research and development organizations to leverage Canadian expertise and technologies in battle against COVID-19.

The University of Saskatchewan’s (USaskVaccine and Infectious Disease Organization-International Vaccine Centre (VIDO-InterVac) and the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) today announced a collaboration to work together to accelerate the development and production of a candidate COVID-19 antigen in mammalian cells.   

The antigen is a key component of a vaccine against COVID-19Vaccines work by providing the human immune system with a sneak peek at a virus, in advance of possible infection. This allows the immune system time to recognize the threat and prepare antibodies, so that it’s ready when it encounters the actual virus. VIDO-InterVac has identified a recombinant protein antigen that will serve as a primary part of a vaccine candidate against COVID-19.  

The antigen against COVID-19 has been produced at laboratory scale, and animal studies at VIDO-InterVac are ongoing to determine the effectiveness of the laboratory-scale antigen. The NRC will now explore the use of its proprietary HEK293 mammalian cells to develop a robust and efficient process to scale-up production of the vaccine antigen for future pre-clinical and clinical studies.   

Quick Facts 

  • SARS-CoV-2 is the virus that causes novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19). Scientists at VIDO-InterVac have identified a candidate antigen and are testing the efficacy of the candidate in a vaccine against the virus. VIDO-InterVac was one of the first organizations in the world to develop an effective pre-clinical animal model for testing medicines against COVID-19.
  • A cell line consists of a population of living cells that are descended from a single cell, which allow for the reproduction of large numbers of cells that have a uniform and known genetic makeup. The NRC has developed a proprietary version of the HEK293 mammalian cell line, which has specific properties that make it useful for the production of biologic medicines, such as VIDO-InterVac’s candidate antigen.
  • In collaboration with various partners, the NRC’s HEK293 cell line has previously been used for the production of numerous biologics, including vaccines that have been proven in clinical trials and subsequently licensed for distribution 


In these times it’s vital for Canadians to work together to protect our health and safety, while also contributing to broader international efforts. 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.” 
Peter Stoicheff, PresidentUniversity of Saskatchewan  

“Now more than ever, the NRC is working to advance important collaborations to ensure that we can contribute to global efforts against this pandemic. We’re very happy to be able to assist VIDO-InterVac in advancing development of their candidate vaccine against COVID-19 by applying our proven expertise in scale-up vaccine production.”   
– Iain Stewart, President, National Research Council of Canada 

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