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

Pastafarian Gary Smith, pictured here dressed as a pirate, wanted to wear his tricorn (also pictured here) in his driver’s licence photo, arguing that the display was a religious observance. Photo: Facebook
B.C. Pastafarian loses Supreme Court fight to wear pirate hat in driver’s licence photo

Grand Forks’ Gary Smith put his case to the Supreme Court in Rossland early last month

Island Health chief medical officer Dr. Richard Stanwick receives a first dose of Pfizer vaccine, Dec. 22, 2020. (B.C. government)
COVID-19: B.C. seniors aged 90+ can start to sign up for vaccination on March 8

Long-term care residents protected by shots already given

BC Ambulance Crews prepare to evacuate a sick Greenwood boy by helicopter on Friday, Feb. 26. Photo: Submitted
Greenwood boy taken to hospital by BC Ambulance helicopter

Greenwood volunteer firefighters helped prepare the chopper’s landing

Sylvain Fabi, Canada’s chief negotiator for the Columbia River Treaty, joined a number of government and Indigenous government stakeholders for a virtual town hall on Feb. 24, 2021, to update the state of the Columbia River Treaty negotiations. Trevor Crawley photo/Zoom screenshot
Indigenous input key to Columbia River Treaty negotiations

Ecosystem function included in negotiations along with flood management and power generation priorities

Thursday, Feb. 4: RDKB Chief Engineer Darryl Funk hoists a banner commemorating last year’s championship season by the Bantam House Bruins. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Bantam Bruins honoured at hair-raising banner ceremony at Grand Forks’ Jack Goddard Arena

Asst. coach Mike Tollis said he reluctantly gave in to the team’s victory wish that he cut his pony tale

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s coronavirus situation, May 8, 2020. (B.C. government photo)
B.C.’s weekend COVID-19 cases: 532 Saturday, 508 Sunday, 438 Monday

Fraser Health still has most, eight more coronavirus deaths

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

B.C. Attorney General David Eby speaks in the legislature, Dec. 7, 2020. Eby was given responsibility for housing after the October 2020 provincial election. (Hansard TV)
B.C. extends COVID-19 rent freeze again, to the end of 2021

‘Renoviction’ rules tightened, rent capped to inflation in 2022

Face mask hangs from a rear-view mirror. (Black Press image)
B.C. CDC unveils guide on how to carpool during the pandemic

Wearing masks, keeping windows open key to slowing the spread of COVID-19

Churches, including Langley’s Riverside Calvary Church, are challenging the regulations barring them from holding in-person worship services during COVID-19. (Langley Advance Times file)
Gas prices jumped in Golden to 131.9c this week, a trend that's supposed to continue into the summer. (Claire Palmer/Golden Star)
Columbia River-Revelstoke MLA Clovechok concerned as gas prices continue to rise

Fuel prices are supposed to skyrocket this summer as British Columbians await BCUC analysis

The area shaded in yellow was purchased last year by the Regional District of Central Kootenay. The purple area is the current purchase. Map: Submitted
Cottonwood Lake fundraiser reaches goal

The Nelson community group has raised $400,000 to purchase 40 hectares of forest

Det. Sgt. Jim Callender. (Hamilton Police Service screenshot)
B.C. man dead, woman seriously injured after shooting in Hamilton, Ont.

The man was in the process of moving to the greater Toronto area, police say

Most Read