Canadian Manufacturing

Clinical trials start for USask’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate

Dubbed COVAC-2, the vaccine hopeful was developed by the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization (VIDO) at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon.

February 10, 2021  The Canadian Press

Clinical trials have begun for another Canadian-made COVID-19 vaccine candidate.

The Canadian Center for Vaccinology says the first of 108 healthy adult volunteers received injections on Feb. 10 in Halifax. The placebo-controlled study will administer two doses to each volunteer, 28 days apart.

Dubbed COVAC-2, the vaccine hopeful was developed by the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization (VIDO) at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon.

It’s the first of two subunit vaccines by VIDO to enter clinical testing. Subunit vaccines contain purified viral proteins that are not infectious, and employ technology already used in vaccines for hepatitis, diphtheria, and whooping cough.

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VIDO says the product doesn’t need ultra-cold storage temperatures like mRNA products. The two Health Canada-approved vaccines by Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech each require special distribution and storage procedures that have complicated their rollout.

It follows the launch last month of clinical trials for a prospective vaccine by Calgary’s Providence Therapeutics, and last year’s launch of trials for a vaccine hopeful by Quebec City’s Medicago.

VIDO’s vaccine antigen — a molecule that triggers an immune response — was produced at Quebec-based Biodextris using a cell line from the National Research Council of Canada.

Development help also came from partners around the world including Seppic in France and the Vaccine Formulation Institute in Switzerland.

At the same time, VIDO is building a manufacturing facility on the USask campus that could produce up to 40 million vaccine doses, but it wasn’t certain if that would include VIDO’s product.