A COVID-19 vaccine is administered in Toronto on Monday, Dec. 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

A COVID-19 vaccine is administered in Toronto on Monday, Dec. 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

Clinical trials start for Canadian COVID-19 vaccine candidate

Dubbed COVAC-2, the vaccine hopeful was developed by the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization

Clinical trials have begun for another Canadian-made COVID-19 vaccine candidate, with three people receiving an initial dose on Wednesday.

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

“It’s a product of Canadian science, so it bodes well for the ability to make vaccines here. We all want to have vaccine manufacturing capacity in Canada,” said Dr. Joanne Langley, a vaccine researcher with the centre.

She said that the pace of testing is careful, as different age groups, from younger to older, receive varying doses in a process that will unfold over the next two months.

Dubbed COVAC-2, the vaccine hopeful was developed by the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization, or 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.

Darryl Falzarano, a vaccine researcher at VIDO, said he’s hoping that his institute’s promising tests on ferrets and hamsters will translate into safe and effective results in the human testing phase.

“Safety is the primary indicator (in the first phase) but you will also be looking at immune response,” he said.

Langley said the testing in the first phase is to determine safety to humans, and the participants will keep a diary that measure any pain or redness of the arm. The trial will also measure antibody responses, she said.

The next step would be to do trials at multiple sites around the country.

It is only in Phase 3 that the vaccine is compared against a placebo or another vaccine to see how well it protects against COVID-19, said Langley.

She said the entire vaccine testing process, if all went well, could take about nine months, adding that is a “very wishful, optimistic scenario.”

VIDO has said in a news release the product doesn’t need ultra-cold storage temperatures like synthetic messenger RNA or 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. Construction is expected to be completed late this year.

Falzarano said the team in Saskatoon is excited the process is beginning, as this form of vaccine can be mass produced at a rapid rate if successful.

“It’s only the beginning of a multi-step process, but at least we’ve gotten to this milestone,” he said.

ALSO READ: Experts say race for COVID drugs dogged by false promises, lack of co-ordination

Michael Tutton and Cassandra Szklarski, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Coronavirusvaccines

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson outlines the province’s three-year budget in Victoria, April 20, 2021. (B.C. government video)
B.C. deficit to grow by $19 billion for COVID-19 recovery spending

Pandemic-year deficit $5 billion lower than forecast

A syringe is loaded with COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
67 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

Thirty people in the region are hospitalized with the virus, 11 of whom are intensive care

People are shown at a COVID-19 vaccination site in Montreal, Sunday, April 18, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
211 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health over the weekend

Currently, there are 875 active cases of the virus in the region

A nurse prepares a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in Kelowna on Tuesday, March 16. As of April 19, more than 230,000 doses have been administered across the Interior Health region. (Phil McLachlan/Black Press)
More than 230K doses of COVID-19 vaccine administered across Interior Health

A total of 220,216 first doses and 13,775 second doses have been given to residents across the B.C. Interior

B.C. homeowners are being urged to take steps to prepare for the possibility of a flood, this includes protecting one’s home by moving equipment and other assets from these areas to higher ground. (J.R. Rardon)
‘Entire province faces risk’: B.C. citizens urged to prepare for above-normal spring flood season

High-streamflow advisory issued for the Cariboo Region and areas including Williams Lake, Quesnel and Prince George

A large crowd protested against COVID-19 measures at Sunset Beach in Vancouver on Tuesday, April 20, 2021. (Snapchat)
VIDEO: Large, police-patrolled crowds gather at Vancouver beach for COVID protests

Vancouver police said they patrolled the area and monitored all gatherings

Police road checks are coming for people travelling between regions while COVID-19 travel restrictions are in place. (Black Press file photo)
B.C. clarifies COVID-19 travel restrictions, Lower Mainland a single zone

Vehicle checks on highways, at ferry terminals to start Friday

Canadian driver Paul Tracy pulls out of the pits during the morning session at the Molson Indy in Vancouver, B.C., Saturday, July 26, 2003 (CP/Richard Lam)
Vancouver is considering hosting a Formula E race using electric cars

The race would be part of a three-day event focused on climate and sustainability

Chart from the April 20 B.C. budget shows sharp dip in real estate sales early in the COVID-19 pandemic and the even steeper climb since late 2020. (B.C. government)
Hot B.C. housing market drives property transfer tax gains

B.C. budget boosts tobacco, sweet drinks, carbon taxes

President Joe Biden holds a virtual bilateral meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
U.S. to help Canada with more COVID-19 vaccine supply, Biden says

The U.S. has already provided Canada with about 1.5 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine

B.C.’s 2021 budget is trending in the right direction to support farmers, says the BC Fruit Growers’ Association. (Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
BC Fruit Growers’ Association gives thumbs up to provincial budget

BCFGA general manager said budgetary investments put farming industry on a good trajectory for recovery

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson leaves the assembly with Premier John Horgan after the budget speech Tuesday, April 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Paid sick leave for ‘hard-hit’ workers left out of provincial budget: BCGEU

‘For recovery to be equitable it requires supports for workers, not just business,’ says union president Laird Cronk

In this image from video, former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin, center, is taken into custody as his attorney, Eric Nelson, left, looks on, after the verdicts were read at Chauvin’s trial for the 2020 death of George Floyd, Tuesday, April 20, 2021, at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis, Minn. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Court TV via AP, Pool
George Floyd’s death was ‘wake-up call’ about systemic racism: Trudeau

Derek Chauvin was found guilty Tuesday on all three charges against him

Most Read