Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s motorcade of seven Lincoln Town Cars pulled into the University of Saskatchewan campus early Friday, Sept. 16 to mark the official grand opening of the $140 million International Vaccine Centre, or InterVac.
Harper was joined by Saskatoon Mayor Don Atchison and Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall, whom he later met with privately.
According to the university’s news release, “The state-of-the-art vaccine research centre — one of the largest of its kind in the world — uses the most advanced technologies to develop vaccines against new and re-emerging infectious diseases safely and more quickly than ever before.”
Construction of the building lasted nearly three years at the site located just off Preston Avenue on Perimeter Road.
InterVac will work to develop vaccines to fight infectious diseases in both humans and animals, and is one of only a handful of high-containment facilities in the world with an educational mandate.
“This new facility will be a centre of excellence creating jobs for highly skilled researchers, opportunities for training students and building on our international profile as a leader in public health,” Harper said at the unveiling.
U of S President Peter MacKinnon pointed out that InterVac is Canada’s largest investment in vaccine research to date, and thanked all three levels of government for support and confidence.
He said the centre will foster international collaborations and partnerships to help against the threat of a global pandemic.
Capital funding for the project included $49 million from the Government of Canada through various agencies, $32.5 million from the Canada Foundation for Innovation, $57.1 million from the Province of Saskatchewan, $1.2 million from the University of Saskatchewan and $250,000 from the City of Saskatoon.
InterVac will be directed by the U of S’s Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization, and is a containment level 3 facility — the second highest bio-safety level. It’s specially designed for scientists to safely conduct research into diseases such as tuberculosis, hepatitis C, HIV/AIDS, SARS, influenza, and prion diseases such as chronic wasting disease and mad cow disease.
Karen Chad, U of S vice-president research, said InterVac will enhance the university’s capabilities to develop tools that will eventually save lives.
“Through collaborative research and a wide array of partnerships, we are at the forefront of integrating human, animal and ecosystem health to address threats to the ”˜one health’ we all share,” said Chad.
InterVac will begin operations in spring 2012.
photo: Raisa Pezderic/The Sheaf