COVID-19: Where are the vaccine clinical trials in Canada?

Medicago in Quebec

The vaccine developed by the Medicago laboratory in Quebec appears to be one of the most successful projects. The laboratory is finalizing its Phase 3 clinical trials. Once this step is complete, the data will be submitted to Health Canada for approval.

Medicago explains that it continues to target get approved before the end of the year .

Currently, all energies are geared towards the completion of phase 3.

A quote from: Medicago

Medicago’s prototype COVID-19 vaccine is developed from plants.

Photo: Courtesy / Medicago

Clinical trials of the vaccine have slowed dramatically since last spring, particularly due to a lack of candidates in Canada and the United States.

Instead, to fix the problem, efforts have focused on half a dozen countries, including the UK, Mexico and Brazil.

To test vaccines, you need unvaccinated people. Therefore, it is difficult to find volunteers for clinical trials in a context where people in Canada are already heavily vaccinated., explains Alain Lamarre, an expert in immunology and virology at the National Institute for Scientific Research (INRS).

Medicago seeks to become the first company to commercialize a herbal COVID-19 vaccine. The laboratory has already received Ottawa’s promise of an order for 20 million doses of the vaccine once it has been approved.

AbCellera in Vancouver

Instead of a vaccine, the AbCellera laboratory in British Columbia has embarked on research for antibodies that can be used to make drugs.

According to the laboratory, the monoclonal antibody Bamlanivimab has already been administered more than 600,000 times worldwide. It has bypassed the hospital for tens of thousands of people and saved more than 10,000 lives., explains the director and president of AbCellera, Carl Hansen.

Health Canada approved the antibody last year, but British Columbia opposed its wide distribution.

Right now, AbCellera is working on the development of a second therapeutic antibody, known as Bebtelovimab.

Phase 2 clinical trials are ongoing, and preclinical trials have reportedly shown that the antibody neutralizes all known variants to date, according to the company. This antibody could also potentially be administered by injection.

The different stages of making a vaccine:

  • Preclinical evaluation: When a vaccine shows promise in the laboratory, it is first tested in animals to make sure it is safe and to determine the dose necessary to trigger an immune response.
  • Stage 1 of clinical trials: Testing begins in 10 to 100 healthy volunteers. The goal is to detect possible side effects and adjust the doses.
  • Step 2: The vaccine is now tested on several hundred healthy volunteers. We try to detect short-term side effects, the reaction of the immune system, the optimal dose and the best time to inject it.
  • Step 3: Thousands of people who may be infected are tested. During this final check, in addition to checking that the vaccine is safe, we make sure that it is effective in people who are likely to get sick. There are also patients for whom the vaccine would not be recommended.
  • Approval: In Canada, manufacturers must provide scientific evidence on the safety, efficacy, and quality of their vaccine. They must also document their manufacturing and production method, along with the quality tests they will perform. Health Canada assesses the demand and ensures that the benefits of the vaccine outweigh the risks.

VIDO-InterVac in Saskatoon

The VIDO-InterVac laboratory at the University of Saskatchewan continues its clinical trials and is currently in phase 2 of vaccine development. This summer, the first phase of clinical trials yielded encouraging results.

We will continue to conduct clinical trials and expect to submit a marketing authorization application and obtain regulatory approval in 2022.explains the University.

The University of Saskatchewan International Research Center for Vaccines and Infectious Diseases also plans to establish facilities to produce up to 40 million doses of vaccines per year, if clinical trials are successful.

Suresh Tikoo, on the right, who is wearing a lab coat, talks to a researcher, on the left, who is also wearing a lab coat. There is a microscope in the foreground.

Virologist Suresh Tikoo, right, with a researcher at the VIDO-InterVac research center in Saskatoon.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Jean-François Brassard

Are they still relevant projects?

In total, the federal government has already allocated nearly $ 600 million to support vaccine development and clinical trials in Canada.

From coast to coast, there are many projects (New window) And, even if no Canadian vaccine has seen the light of day, the federal government believes this research is still relevant.

Ottawa justifies these investments with the desire to strengthen your biofabrication capacity and thus better prepare for other pandemics or health emergencies in the future.

According to Alain Lamarre, Canada has every interest in developing its own vaccine, even if the population is widely vaccinated.

The pandemic will become endemic and the virus is likely to remain and circulate, he says. We will always need a booster dose or vaccines adapted to the different strains of the virus. It is a possibility and we must prepare for it.

All vaccine projects have their place and meet different needs.

A quote from: Alain Lamarre, expert in immunology and virology at the National Institute of Scientific Research

Canada also has a role to play in the vaccine race, he said.

Globally, there is still a great need for vaccines in many countries.adds the virology expert.

Finally, having a vaccine produced in Canada would avoid, according to Alain Lamarre, in the future experiencing vaccine shortages or supply problems like the one the country experienced during the pandemic.

The Precision NanoSystems Laboratory in Vancouver (New window), did not respond to our interview requests.

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