Biomanufacturing series: Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization (VIDO)

Dr. Volker Gerdts: Bringing back biomanufacturing

If you asked a 17-year old Volker Gerdts if he knew that his future self would play a large role in vaccine development, his answer would have been a confident yes.

So why, then, did the now Director and CEO of the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization (VIDO) at the University of Saskatchewan enrolling in veterinary school?

"I went into veterinary medicine already thinking that I wanted to pursue a career in science. In fact, most veterinarians learn as much about humans as they do about other species. I was fascinated by all of this and very early on I decided I wanted to go into research."

The vaccine connection

How does this connect to his work at VIDO and their contributions to vaccine development, like COVID-19? Vaccines require animal tissues or cells in the development and manufacturing process.

In fact, VIDO's 45-year history is rooted in infectious disease research and vaccine development for animals. This is important as a large part of Canada's economy is based on agriculture and more than 70% of emerging human infectious diseases originate in animals.

Dr. Volker Gerdts

"I think what we're learning from all of these emerging events is that the speed is critical."

Dr. Volker Gerdts

Bringing back biomanufacturing

Today, VIDO is focused on bringing domestic vaccine manufacturing back to Canada. "The government has now invested into VIDO and there will also be facilities in in Montréal, Calgary, Edmonton, Ottawa, and one in Vancouver—so there are more and more facilities that will be able to fill the gap," asserts Dr. Gerdts.

And biomanufacturing goes beyond our borders: the research centre at the university has scientists from more than 25 countries, and collaborates with infectious disease research groups from across Canada and the world.

Biomanufacturing video series: VIDO

Find out about the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization (VIDO)'s COVID-19 research and vaccine development and its new Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) facility, which received federal funding in 2020.

Biomanufacturing video series: The Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization (VIDO) - Transcript

[Music starts]

[Video footage of the University of Saskatchewan]

Voiceover: This is the University of Saskatchewan.

[Transition to video footage of VIDO]

Voiceover: Nestled within USask is VIDO, the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization.

[Clips of researchers in labs, vials in a lab, and a person holding vaccines.]

Voiceover: A global leader in infectious disease research and vaccine development.

[Video footage of VIDO researchers in lab]

Voiceover: Researchers here study a range of diseases that impact not just humans but also animals.

[Video footage of containment level 3 facility]

Voiceover: VIDO is home to some of the largest and most advanced containment level 2 and 3 infrastructure in the world.

[Video footage of VIDO researchers in lab]

Voiceover: This means that VIDO has the safety measures and infrastructure required to be able to handle highly infectious diseases, such as COVID-19, influenza and African swine fever.

Before a pandemic was declared, VIDO was already leading in COVID-19 research and vaccine development. And soon, they will be contributing to domestic vaccine production too.

[Video footage of the construction site]

Voiceover: Construction is under way on a new biomanufacturing facility that meets regulatory requirements, including good manufacturing practices, or GMP, for both human and animal vaccines.

Once complete, VIDO's new GMP biomanufacturing facility containment level 3 will be one of just a few in the world.

[Video footage of VIDO researchers in lab and of vaccines being made]

Voiceover: And depending on the production efficiency for specific vaccines, this facility could produce up to 40 million vaccine doses annually.

[Video footage of VIDO]

Voiceover: This is just one of the projects the Government of Canada is supporting as we work to keep Canadians safe and build back better.

[Biomanufacturing branding overlay]

[Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada signature]

[Canada wordmark]

[Music ends]

Eyes set on the future

How does VIDO sees itself evolving?

"Instead of catching up with a new disease outbreak, we're asking, can we predict what the next disease might look like, and make a vaccine for it in advance? This can help us control and contain initial outbreaks," explains Dr. Gerdts.

"Global organizations are looking to reduce the window from a new disease outbreak to having the first vaccine to months rather than years, which is phenomenal. This is probably the most rewarding time we have ever had in our lives: where we can work directly on a problem that is affecting all of us and come up with a solution."

Previous post in the series:

Biomanufacturing series: Introduction video

Next post in the series:

Biomanufacturing series: Medicago

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