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Sask. Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization set to level up virology capabilities

The Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization (VIDO) on the University of Saskatchewan campus will soon be capable of handling more dangerous viruses, thanks to a funding injection.

VIDO was given $8.1 million from the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) to top up its $53.9 million in operational funding awarded through the CFI Major Science Initiatives Fund.

“This is the final level of funding that's required for us to upgrade to a level four facility,” director of research Andrew Van Kessel told CTV News.

The facility currently has containment level three capacity and the changes will allow them to move to a level four (CL4).

“That will take time, of course, in terms of the construction and so forth required to upgrade our facility and finally, commission it or regulatory standards and so on.”

Van Kessel said the facility should be finished by August 2025 and will be regulated by the Public Health Agency of Canada.

“They will ensure that the systems that we have in place protect both the environment and our staff that are working with these pathogens,” Van Kessel said.

He said the facility was inspected each year to see that it meets standards.

VIDO’s expansion has been in the works since its involvement in the COVID-19 pandemic, Van Kessel said.

“By gaining experience working with CL4 pathogens now, not only we do have the facility, but we have the experienced staff that are able to work with those pathogens and ultimately develop solutions in terms of their control.

“It's really an extension of our capability. We’re definitely not starting from scratch here.”

He said there was only one other facility in the country that was CL4 capable and it was in Winnipeg.

“Having a level four capacity will indeed bring even greater talent to Saskatoon and specialized talent to Saskatoon to support Canada's efforts. So it's certainly a part of growing a talent pool in Canada and in Saskatchewan in terms of the biomedical area.” Top Stories

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