New facility to be built in Vancouver will produce 240 million vaccine doses annually

Feb 3 2021, 6:30 pm

As the battle against COVID-19 rages on, Canada is ramping up its vaccine producing capabilities at home in an effort to fill in the gaping hole in national security made evident by the pandemic.

Vancouver’s Precision NanoSystems Inc. (PNI) announced this week it received $25.1 million from the federal government’s Strategic Innovation Fund to create its domestic vaccine biomanufacturing capability.

The federal contribution covers half of the total $50.2 million cost of the new biomanufacturing centre that will be built in Vancouver, focusing on the production of ribonucleic acid (RNA) lipid nanoparticle vaccines and genetic medicines.

But the first vaccines made in this 40,000-sq-ft facility will not be ready for immediate pandemic needs; the project is not expected to reach completion until 2023, however, it will help secure the national supplies for critical medicines, future COVID-19 vaccine needs, and vaccines for future pandemics.

When operational, it will have a capacity to manufacture up to 240 million doses of vaccine each year. The RNA vaccine technology it will use is also currently being utilized by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna to rapidly develop and produce their COVID-19 vaccines.

“PNI’s centre of manufacturing excellence of nanomedicine will be a state-of-the-art facility for the development and manufacture of genetic therapeutics and vaccines,” said James Taylor, the CEO of Precision NanoSystems, in a statement.

“The centre will continue Canada’s leadership in the creation of innovative solutions for the development and production of new medicines for the benefit of patients in Canada and beyond.”

Prior to COVID-19, PNI was already seeing quick growth in its business of developing genetic medicines by offering products and services to help create new treatments for infectious diseases, rare diseases, cancers, and other ailments.

PNI announced two separate COVID-19 vaccine development partnerships in May 2020, including a DNA vaccine with Edmonton-based Entos Pharmaceuticals.

That same month, another partnership was entered with Chinese vaccine company CanSino Biologics, with PNI responsible for the development of the mRNA vaccine and CanSino Biologics responsible for the pre-clinical testing, human clinical trials, regulatory approval, and commercialization. The Chinese company has the rights to commercialize the vaccine product in Asia, except in Japan, with PNI retaining the rights for the rest of the world.

A report in the Globe and Mail last summer indicated the federal government’s National Research Council ended its partnership with CanSino, after the Chinese government refused to ship a vaccine to Canada for trials.

In October 2020, the federal government also provided $18.2 million in funding for PNI to advance a COVID-19 mRNA vaccine candidate to clinical trials.

“Our government is bringing back the vaccine manufacturing capacity that Canadians expect and need. These investments will help to ensure that Canada has modern, flexible vaccine manufacturing capabilities now and in the future,” said François-Philippe Champagne, the federal Minister of Innovation, Science, and Industry, in a statement.

“Our government is helping Canadian companies advance made-in-Canada vaccines and therapies, while securing domestic manufacturing options for international vaccine candidates.”

The federal government is also funding new vaccine biomanufacturing facilities in Saskatchewan and Quebec.

Kenneth ChanKenneth Chan

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