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Monday, 18 August 2014

A celebration of Canada’s contribution to vaccines.

Those following the Ebola outbreaks are aware that Canada came riding as a white knight into the fray with an offer to utilize an untried vaccine developed at the National Metabolic Laboratories in Winnipeg. 

Such an international spotlight opens the curtains on celebrating Canada’s storied contributions to vaccines.  Fostered through the University of Toronto Connaught Laboratories  established in 1914 and best known for development of insulin.  The academic laboratories subsequently morphed into Connaught industries and helped lead the global effort to develop a polio vaccine post WWII which resulted in a candidate inactivated vaccines that formed the basis for the renowned Salk vaccine first trialed in 1952.  Connaught was instrumental in ramping up production to population scale levels within four years and directly contributed to outbreak cessation in the early 1950s. Connaught was well positioned to export vaccine internationally and quickly grew to an international industrial player and renowned as a major player in controlling polio globally.

Connaught’s production efforts have gone through multiple corporate purchases initially by Institute Mérieux in 1989, then merging with Pasteur Institute.  Morphing in 1999 to Aventis- Pasteur and purchased by Sanofi in 2004.  It continues to operate in Canada as Sanofi-Pasteur and is celebrating its 100th year in the business of vaccine development and production.  The Canadian branch of the company remains foundational in domestic production of the majority of routinely provided vaccines in Canada. 

Canadians have been involved in the production of an acellular pertussis vaccine in 1996,  an Alzheimer of vaccine Dr. Peter St George-Hyslop in 2000, bovine E. Coli vaccine Drs. Brett Finlay and Andy Potter in 2004, the hemorrhagic fever vaccines for Ebola, Marburg, and Lassa were trialed in 2005 by Drs. Heinz Feldmann and Steven Jones.  Canada is currently highly active in HIV vaccine development   http://www.chvi-icvv.gc.ca/index-eng.html

Expertise in vaccinology has developed in multiple centres with specific mention to the Canadian Accelerated Vaccine Development initiative led by the PREVENT coalition formed from Halifax Centre for Vaccinology, University of Saskatchewan Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization, and BC Centre for Disease Control, who in working with industry are fronting early vaccine development activities and early phase trials before commercialization efforts are ascribed to private sector partners. The current work focused on Group A Streptococcus, Chlamydia, influenza, RSV and an animal spongiform encephalopathy vaccine.

While PREVENT is still in its formative stages, phase 1 studies have already commenced.

With the cost of vaccine development, licensing and commercialization estimated at $200-600 Million, such efforts are costly, high-tech and high risk.  However, with large consumer basis for many of the products long term returns are of significant value.

While until this year the market for an Ebola vaccine was very limited, Canada’s rich resource in skill, technology and experience in the vaccine field deserves much greater recognition and celebration than perhaps its surprising arrival on the humanitarian Ebola scene suggests.  

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