Federal investment in Canada’s Immuno-Engineering and Biomanufacturing Hub projects will bolster domestic biotech sector, readiness to respond to future health threats.  

When the next pandemic hits, Canada will be better prepared to respond with homegrown vaccines and therapeutics, thanks to a nearly $140-million federal investment in a national research coalition led by the University of British Columbia.

The funding supports four multidisciplinary research projects through Canada’s Immuno-Engineering and Biomanufacturing Hub (CIEBH), a UBC-led alliance of more than 50 academic, industry, not-for-profit and health system partners that have come together to make Canada a leader in advanced immune-based therapeutics like RNA vaccines, antibody treatments and cell therapies.

DMCBH researcher Dr. Sriram Subramaniam is leading one of the projects called PROGENITER (Pathogen Response Optimization by GENeratIng ThErapeutics Rationally). PROGENITER will build on BC’s leadership and further fuel the local biotech industry by creating an end-to-end pipeline for the rapid design, engineering and production of new antibody therapies. The project will establish a world-class structural biology facility at UBC’s Vancouver campus with advanced cryo-electron microscopes and a comprehensive suite of translational capabilities including AI-enabled biologics discovery and GMP-level production.

Dr. Subramaniam and the PROGENITER team, which includes DMCBH member Dr. Annie Ciernia, aim to build an arsenal of antibody drugs against viruses with the highest pandemic potential as identified by Health Canada and the World Health Organization. The project will focus initially on existing viral threats, putting in place resources that will enable a rapid response to new pandemic threats that emerge and positioning Canada to be ready to administer life-saving treatments without delay.

PROGENITER will also leverage strong connections with leading pharma and biotech companies, which include AbCellera, Amgen, GSK, Zymeworks, and Gandeeva Therapeutics. The project will create national synergies across academia, industry and public health sectors to accelerate Canada’s preparation for the next pandemic.

The other three funded projects are:

In addition to bolstering Canada’s pandemic resilience, the four CIEBH projects will accelerate the development of lifesaving treatments for some of the most pressing health challenges facing Canadians, including cancer, diabetes and dementia.

A version of this announcement was originally published on the UBC News website.