The University of Saskatchewan (USask) in Canada has reported positive data from preclinical studies of the Covid-19 vaccine candidate developed by its Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization-International Vaccine Centre (VIDO-InterVac).

According to researchers, the vaccine demonstrated high effectiveness in ferrets, one of the animal models commonly used for Covid-19. The animals were given two immunisations before being exposed to SARS-CoV-2.

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The vaccine candidate stimulated a strong immune response, produced neutralising antibodies and reduced viral infection in the upper respiratory tract to nearly undetectable levels. 

VIDO-InterVac director Dr Volker Gerdts said: “We are working to ensure our Covid-19 vaccine advances as rapidly as possible. Proving that the vaccine is effective in ferrets is a key milestone in the development pathway.”

The institute developed its Covid-19 vaccine based on research findings regarding other coronaviruses including SARS and MERS.

For the Covid-19 vaccine, the researchers used a combination of adjuvant, previously developed in alliance with Dalhousie University, the University of British Columbia and the South Korean-based International Vaccine Institute.

The vaccine candidate will undergo multiple additional studies over the next few months, including safety studies to prepare for future human clinical trials.

Meanwhile, VIDO-InterVac is establishing a vaccine manufacturing facility to support vaccine production capacity in Canada. 

The organisation’s Covid-19 vaccine development project is supported by the Governments of Canada and Saskatchewan. Operations are supported by Saskatchewan government and by Canada Foundation for Innovation.

Apart from the vaccine candidate, the organisation is collaborating with research groups worldwide to assess antivirals and therapeutics against Covid-19. 

It is said to be the first lab in Canada to isolate SARS-CoV-2 and to set up an animal model for testing vaccines, antivirals and therapeutics. 

Earlier this month, the Canadian government agreed to provide up to $175.6m to support AbCellera in the development of antibody-based therapies against Covid-19.