Canada’s plan to mobilize science to fight COVID-19

Written by Ragini Joshi

Published on : March 24, 2020 2:10

Canada’s plan to mobilize science to fight COVID-19

The Government of Canada is supporting our country’s researchers as they do critical
work to protect the health and safety of all Canadians, and people around the world,
during the COVID-19 outbreak.

The Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, today announced support to quickly mobilize
Canadian researchers and life sciences companies to support large-scale efforts
towards countermeasures to combat COVID-19, including potential vaccines and

This $275 million for coronavirus research and medical countermeasures is part of the
Government of Canada’s more than $1 billion COVID-19 Response Fund. The funding
will be used to advance projects that are already underway by university researchers
and others to respond to COVID-19, and ensure domestic supply of potential vaccines.
These research efforts can move quickly, and include:

• $192 million in new projects that will be prioritized under the new Strategic
Innovation Fund COVID-19 stream to deliver direct support to Canadian
companies for large-scale projects. These companies include:

o AbCellera, a Vancouver-based biotech company that has built the world’s
leading technology for antibody discovery, is at the forefront of developing
antibody-based drugs to treat and prevent COVID-19. AbCellera’s
technology is being used to search blood samples of patients who have
recovered from COVID-19 to find naturally-produced antibodies that can
be used for treatment and prevention. AbCellera was the first company in
North America to receive a sample from a convalescent patient, and within
days identified over 500 human antibodies that are candidates for
development as a treatment. The company has partnered with global
biopharmaceutical company Eli Lilly to rapidly manufacture and distribute
a treatment with the goal of begining clinical trials in July 2020.

o Medicago, a Quebec City-based company with 20 years of experience in
plant-based vaccines and therapeutics, that has identified a viable plantbased vaccine candidate currently at the pre-clinical testing phase.
Funding will allow Medicago to rapidly move forward on clinical trials and
then quickly shift to scaling up production for pandemic response.
• Funding for the University of Saskatchewan’s Vaccine and Infectious Disease
Organization – International Vaccine Centre (VIDO-InterVac), one of the largest
and most advanced infectious disease research facilities in the world. With $11
million in funding from the Canada Foundation for Innovation, VIDO-InterVac will
be able to strengthen its existing expertise in coronavirus research and to help
develop a vaccine for COVID-19. An additional $12 million from Western
Economic Diversification’s Regional Economic Growth Through Innovation
program will help VIDO-InterVac expand its bio-manufacturing capacity to
support clinical trials.

• Funding of $15 million for the National Research Council of Canada to upgrade
its Human Health Therapeutics facility in Montréal to develop, test and scale-up
promising vaccine candidates to be ready for industrial production. This will
involve certifying the facility for Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) quality
assurance to ensure that their human pharmaceuticals and biologics, including
vaccines, are consistently produced and controlled. This certification will support
a more effective roll-out and production of vaccines, and help ensure that any
vaccines produced by the facility can be made available to Canadians and
people around the world more quickly.

• Support for BlueDot, a Toronto-based digital health firm, with a first-of-its-kind
global early warning technology for infectious diseases. The company was one of
the first in the world to identify the spread of COVID-19. The Government of
Canada, through the Public Health Agency of Canada, will use its disease
analytics platform to support modelling and monitoring of the spread of COVID
19, and to inform government decision-making as the situation evolves.
These measures are part of a larger strategy the Government of Canada is
implementing to protect Canadians and prevent the spread of the virus. The whole-ofgovernment strategy will help ensure the capacity of our health care system, support international and domestic efforts, and mitigate the economic impacts on Canadians
and Canadian business.

“Canada is home to some of the most skilled and brightest researchers in the world,
who are working hard to develop countermeasures that will protect the health and safety
of Canadians and support international efforts to fight this pandemic. We are all in this
together, and need to be doing our part to prevent the spread of the virus.”
—The Rt. Hon. Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada
“The Government is committed to protecting the health and safety of Canadians. We
are all in this together: Canada is benefiting from the impressive and innovative power
of Canadian researchers and businesses in our coordinated national approach to fight
COVID-19. Together, we are rapidly scaling-up our capacity in research and in
manufacturing the products we will need during the pandemic.”
– The Hon. Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry
“Our top priority is protecting the health and well-being of Canadians. We are funding
nearly 100 research teams focused on rapidly developing effective methods to
diagnose, treat, and manage patients with COVID-19 and on determining how to further
strengthen our communication with Canadians.”
—The Hon. Patty Hajdu, Minister of Health
“In the fight against COVID-19, we’re enlisting the best of Canadian ingenuity. Through
our whole-of-government approach, we will be able to scale up the efforts to develop a
vaccine for COVID-19, thanks in part to the support of our regional economic agencies
across the country.”
—The Hon. Mélanie Joly, Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages