SASKATOON -- The Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization and International Vaccine Centre (VIDO-InterVac) on the University of Saskatchewan campus is looking to become Canada’s “centre for pandemic research.”

In a presentation to Saskatoon City Council, the centre says it’s seeking funding for a new animal facility, to add the ability to work with a wide range of animals and exotic species, and to upgrade its current facility to containment level four.

VIDO-InterVac says its lab is already Canada’s largest high-containment laboratory, has a manufacturing facility, and collaborates with the National Microbiology Laboratory (NML) and Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) in Winnipeg.

The centre was the first in Canada to isolate the virus which causes COVID-19, with Sunnybrook Research Institute in Toronto and the NML, and has a vaccine candidate under development, with human clinical trials set to begin in December. The trial is expected to finish in April 2021.

VIDO-InterVac says a quick response is critical when dealing with infectious diseases that have significant impacts and a national centre could focus on emerging diseases to train the “next generation of decision makers” and prepare Canada “for the next disease.”