The federal government today announced a $200-million investment to help a Mississauga, Ont.-based company build a plant that can churn out millions of mRNA vaccines.
Innovation Minister François-Philippe Champagne said the money will be used to expand an existing site owned by Resilience Biotechnologies Inc. to provide “made-in-Canada solutions such as vaccines and treatments for future pandemics.”
The funds will expand Resilience’s manufacturing and fill-finish capacity for several vaccines and therapeutics, including mRNA shots like the ones now being used to fight COVID-19, Champagne said.
The government says the plant expansion will create 500 permanent jobs and 50 co-op placements for students once construction is complete in 2024.
The addition of some 55,000 square feet of factory space will allow Resilience to manufacture between 112 million and 640 million doses of mRNA product each year. The goal is to leave Canada less dependent on foreign vaccine makers when the next pandemic hits.
Resilience is a contract development and manufacturing organization (CDMO), which means it assembles products developed by other companies.
It’s standard for big pharmaceutical companies like AstraZeneca, Merck and Pfizer to outsource the actual drug manufacturing process to third parties. Some companies have sold their manufacturing sites to focus on research and development. A Novartis-owned plant in Boucherville, Que. was sold to Avara, a contract manufacturing operation, in 2018.
There is currently not a single CDMO (contracted development and manufacturing organization) facility in Canada that is capable of producing a supply of vaccines sufficient to meet national and international demands.
Once at the forefront of global vaccine development, Canada’s life sciences sector has been hollowed out after years of paltry investments by both governments and the private sector.
Champagne said Canada had trouble luring any of the big vaccine players to Canada in the early days of this pandemic because there was so little fill-and-finish capacity available here to mass-produce shots. (Finish-and-fill refers to the process of filling vials with vaccine and finishing the process of packaging the product for distribution.)
“I would say this is a game-changer because, with that, we will be able to support several vaccine candidates,” Champagne said. “We’ve been looking around to bring everything back to Canada.”
Last fall, the federal government floated $173 million to help Medicago develop its COVID-19 vaccine and build a large plant to produce it.
On Tuesday, Medicago, which is developing the product in combination with GSK, reported positive early clinical trial data on its plant-derived COVID-19 vaccine, which is different than the mRNA shots offered by Pfizer and Moderna or viral vector vaccines from AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson.
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