The Canadian government is providing more than C$11.1 million (US$8.1 million) for two new mRNA vaccine projects at the University of British Columbia (UBC).
The funding, through the Pacific Economic Development Agency of Canada (PacifiCan), is for UBC to enhance the delivery and efficacy of mRNA vaccines.
PacifiCan is investing the money through its Regional Innovation Ecosystems in Western Canada program.
The first of the two projects is receiving C$3.5 million (US$2.6 million) in support. It aims to optimize how mRNA vaccines are administered on a cellular level, improving uptake into the body. This will reduce potential side-effects of mRNA vaccines, improve their efficacy and allow for a smaller vaccine dosage. Research conducted through this project will help to streamline the production of existing mRNA vaccines and inform the development of future medicines across the globe.
The second project, with C$7.6 million (US$5.6 million) funding, aims to identify and address new COVID-19 variants before they can spread. Through studying existing variants at the molecular level, researchers will use artificial intelligence (AI) to predict and develop mRNA vaccine treatments for potential future pathogens.
This project will enable a quick response to emerging COVID-19 variants, helping to protect Canadians, and further solidify B.C. as a leader in the biotechnology sector.
“With cutting-edge research led by some of the brightest minds globally, UBC continues to excel in biotechnology and life sciences research and innovation. With the generous support of the Government of Canada through PacifiCan announced today, our researchers will be able to help development treatments for new COVID-19 variants and improve the efficacy of mRNA vaccines and other therapeutics for a wide range of diseases,” said Santa J. Ono, president and vice-chancellor, University of British Columbia
“UBC has long been a major driver of the B.C. biotech sector, but those connections and their outputs really gained international attention during the pandemic. AbCellera, Acuitas, and Precision Nanosystems, among many others, are now major players in the treatment and prevention of diseases. This funding builds off many years of collaboration between UBC and local biotech companies and will enable us to continue developing and refining vaccines, drugs, and biologics,” added Leonard Foster, professor, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at UBC.