Coronavirus: Saskatoon lab tests potential vaccine on ferrets

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A University of Saskatchewan lab says it is on the forefront of developing a vaccine for the novel coronavirus and a manufacturing lab to produce it.

The Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization-International Vaccine Centre (VIDO-InterVac) in Saskatoon said it has isolated the coronavirus in its lab and generated a vaccine based on the isolate. It says it’s now in the process of testing it on ferrets.

“The ferrets have been immunized with the test vaccine. We’re allowing them to develop an immune response and then we’ll expose them to the virus in a few weeks and see if the vaccine works or not,” said Volker Gerdts, VIDO-InterVac director and CEO.

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The lab has about 30 people working almost 24 hours a day, in shifts.

In 2020, VIDO-InterVac has received approximately $28 million in funding, the majority from the federal government’s rapid research initiative, which is aimed at contributing to global efforts to battle the coronavirus pandemic.

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“It helps us to enhance our capacities. We’ve hired new people and it allows us to do many studies in parallel,” Gerdts said.

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“This is critical right now as time is so important. We can now have multiple trials going on, in parallel, to not waste any time.”

The money has also allowed VIDO-InterVac to construct a vaccine manufacturing facility.

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