“This major investment in USask’s VIDO will help Canada address COVID-19 and be well prepared for future infectious disease outbreaks,” said USask President Peter Stoicheff. “We are very grateful for this crucial federal government support. It signals Canada’s recognition of VIDO’s global prominence in vaccine research and development that will protect the health and safety of all Canadians. Combined with the support from both the Saskatchewan government and the City of Saskatoon, VIDO can now begin its important work as Canada’s centre for pandemic preparedness.”
This is in addition to commitments made by the provincial government ($15 million), City of Saskatoon ($250,000), and private donors. The centre will expand VIDO’s research capacity and help strengthen Canada’s response to emerging infectious diseases including future pandemics.
“We are excited about this announcement as it allows VIDO to expand our capacity to rapidly respond to emerging human and animal infectious diseases and supports vaccine development including COVID-19,” said VIDO Director and CEO Dr. Volker Gerdts.
Part of the funding will support new animal housing. In addition, VIDO is looking to upgrade areas of its containment level 3-agriculture facility to biosafety level 4. This upgrade would significantly increase Canada’s capacity for research and vaccine development on all infectious diseases.
Construction will be completed over the next three years.
The centre will leverage the more than $225- million investment in specialized infrastructure at VIDO, including one of the largest and most advanced high containment facilities and a biomanufacturing facility that is under construction that is expected to be completed by the fall of 2021.
The enhanced capacity will also enable VIDO to expand training and scientific recruitment.
“This funding commitment is a strong signal of confidence in the University of Saskatchewan’s ability to deliver discovery the world needs to ensure health of humans and animals,” said USask Vice-President Research Baljit Singh. “VIDO’s global leadership is an example of how our researchers are leveraging government investment and making scientific advancements that improve lives and livelihoods around the world especially during this pandemic. This $59.2 million investment creates opportunities for our institution to ensure Canada is prepared to practically deal with future threats from infectious diseases to our health, safety and economic prosperity.”
During the COVID-19 pandemic, VIDO has taken a national leadership role. This includes being the first in Canada to isolate the virus that causes COVID-19, the first in Canada to develop an animal model of disease and the first Canadian university organization to have a COVID-19 vaccine in clinical trials. In addition, VIDO has continued to engage with organizations around the world to support the development of novel vaccines, antivirals and therapeutics in an effort to help end the ongoing pandemic.
“This centre will strengthen VIDO’s role in Canada and internationally and ensure that VIDO continues to play a key role in protecting humans and animals against emerging infectious diseases,” said VIDO board chair Ryan Thompson. “We thank the Government of Canada for its continued support.”