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Dalhousie University’s Dr. Joanne Langley named Co‑Lead of COVID‑19 Vaccine Task Force

Posted by Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada, Dalhousie Medical School on August 5, 2020 in News
Photo: Dr. Joanne Langley
Photo: Dr. Joanne Langley

The Government of Canada is aggressively pursuing the purchase and development of COVID-19 vaccines, treatments, and related supplies to protect Canadians, and working to strengthen Canada’s biomanufacturing sector. This includes engaging with international and domestic scientists, and with businesses and manufacturers stepping up to fight COVID-19. The Government of Canada is investing in projects that will position Canada at the forefront of the global race to find a treatment and vaccine for COVID-19, while building domestic capabilities to fight future pandemics.

The Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development), and the Honourable Anita Anand, Minister of Public Services and Procurement, today announced several measures being taken by the Government of Canada to secure a future supply of COVID-19 vaccine and therapies.

Minister Bains unveiled the members of the COVID-19 Vaccine Task Force, which will advise the Government on how best to support vaccine research in Canada and help ensure Canadian leadership in vaccine development, related bio-manufacturing, and international partnerships to secure access for Canadians to safe and effective products.

Dr. Joanne Langley, Professor in the Departments of Pediatrics and Community Health and Epidemiology at Dalhousie University and Head of Infectious Diseases at the IWK Health Centre, has been named Co-Lead of the task force. Dr. Langley is Dalhousie University’s CIHR-GSK Chair in Pediatric Vaccinology. It is the only chair of its kind in the country.

“It was truly an honor to be asked to serve the national COVID-19 response in this way,“ says Dr. Langley. “Together, with an amazing team, we have been working since early June to find safe and effective vaccines to protect Canadians. To do that we have been prioritizing potential Canadian COVID-19 vaccine projects, identifying non-Canadian vaccine candidates, and working on solutions for domestic manufacturing.”

The Vaccine Task Force includes vaccine and immunology experts, as well as industry leaders with a proven ability in developing and commercializing vaccines. Dr. Langley will co-chair the task force with Mark Lievonen, Director of Quest PharmaTech Inc., Acerus Pharmaceuticals Corporation, Biome Grow Inc., and the Gairdner Foundation and former President of Sanofi Pasteur Limited in Canada.

Task Force members have reviewed vaccine and bio-manufacturing applications from domestic candidates for which it has provided advice to the Ministers of Innovation, Science and Industry, and Health on the most promising options aimed at providing Canadians with safe, effective vaccines as soon as possible, as well as a robust manufacturing sector to increase our secure access to vaccine production. The Task Force has also provided scientific and technical advice to the government on a portfolio of leading international vaccine candidates.

“The Government is committed to protecting the health and safety of Canadians. That’s why we are working hard on all possible fronts to deliver safe and effective treatments and vaccines against COVID-19 for Canadians as fast as possible,” says The Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry. “Guided by the expertise of these task forces, which has informed the VBI investment announced today, we are leaving no stone unturned in exploring every promising option to enhance our research and development capacity for long-term emergency preparedness.”

Minister Anand announced that - following the careful review and recommendation of the COVID-19 Vaccine Task Force - the Government of Canada has entered into two agreements with Pfizer and Moderna to secure millions of doses of COVID-19 vaccine candidates. Pfizer will supply its BNT162 mRNA-based vaccine candidate, while Moderna will provide its mRNA-1273 vaccine candidate. All potential vaccines will require Health Canada regulatory approval prior to being used to vaccinate Canadians. Active negotiations with other potential vaccine suppliers are also under way.

“Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have been working diligently to secure the necessary personal protective equipment and supplies needed to protect frontline healthcare workers and combat COVID-19. While that work continues, we are now squarely focused on preparing Canada for an eventual vaccine,” says The Honourable Anita Anand, Minister of Public Services and Procurement. “Given intense global competition, we are taking an aggressive approach to secure access to the most promising candidates so that we will be ready to vaccinate all Canadians as quickly as possible. We are extremely pleased to establish these agreements with Pfizer and Moderna. Canadians can rest assured that the Government will continue to do everything possible to keep them healthy and safe.”

The Government is negotiating and signing agreements with a number of leading pharmaceutical companies to establish a guaranteed supply base of potential vaccine candidates.

Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) is also procuring the equipment and supplies that will be needed to perform the final manufacturing and packaging stages of vaccine production in Canada, as well as the materials needed to support safe, efficient immunization such as syringes, needles, alcohol swabs and other supplies.

In addition, following the recommendation of the COVID-19 Vaccine Task Force, Minister Bains announced an investment of up to $56 million to support clinical trials for a COVID-related vaccine candidate from Variation Biotechnologies Inc. (VBI) through the Strategic Innovation Fund. VBI’s project is in direct response to the global fight against COVID-19 and contributes to Canada’s ability to secure an effective vaccine. This investment is funded from the Government’s $600 million to support COVID-19 related vaccine and therapy clinical trials led by the private sector, and Canadian bio-manufacturing opportunities.  Other projects are still under consideration.

Minister Bains also announced the members of the COVID-19 Therapeutics Task Force. The Therapeutics Task Force is providing expert advice to the Government on the development of COVID-19 treatments, including how best to prioritize financial support for promising COVID-19 treatment projects. The task force includes experts drawn from research and industry who have a proven ability to develop and bring new therapies to market in Canada. The Therapeutics Task Force is co-chaired by Nancy Harrison, Director and Past Chair of LifeSciences BC, and Cédric Bisson, Partner at Teralys Capital.

From the beginning, the Government has worked across all departments and agencies to meet the challenges posed by COVID-19 with the goal of protecting the health of all Canadians. Today, the Government also announced investments that will help support the development of and access to treatments for COVID-19, including:

  • Support of more than $19 million in funding through the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), in collaboration with the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), to leverage the expertise of researchers in the natural sciences and engineering and their partners across Canada to address this unprecedented crisis. This investment will support 369 COVID-19 research projects, including work related to vaccines.

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Media Contacts

Alex Jagric
Press Secretary, Office of the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry
(343) 551-7206

Cecely Roy
Press Secretary, Office of the Honourable Anita Anand

Media Relations
Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada

Media Relations
Public Services and Procurement Canada

Jennifer Lewandowski
Communications Advisor, Dalhousie University Faculty of Medicine