Feds commit nearly $200M to be able to mass produce mRNA vaccine in Canada
OTTAWA -- The federal government is committing almost $200 million to boost the manufacturing capacity at a Mississauga, Ont.-based plant in order to fulfill future vaccine and therapeutics needs.
Federal innovation minister Francois-Philippe Champagne spoke to the announcement on Tuesday, stating that Resilience Biotechnologies will receive $199.16 million, which will go to “modernize and expand” the company’s facilities – a project with a total price tag of $401.51 million.
“Once completed, the new facility is expected to be able to manufacture between 112 million and 640 million doses of mRNA vaccines per year – a significant boost to our domestic capacity. This will position Canada well to attract vaccine manufacturing for both the Canadian market and the export market,” said Champagne.
Ottawa has previously announced funds to bolster mRNA vaccine production in the country, but not at this scale.
In January, the government promised to dish out up to $5 million to Calgary-based Providence Therapeutics and Northern RNA to “build a pipeline of mRNA vaccines.” Millions of additional dollars have gone to firms that make viral vector vaccines.
While Resilience Biotechnologies isn’t generating its own product, when contracted it will work with other firms to mass produce their drugs. The project is expected to be completed in 2024, but they aim to have some capacity come online as early as 2023.
The federal government has so far been reliant on international vaccine production and manufacturing because of a lack of domestic capacity.
“Our biomanufacturing sector had been in decline for almost four decades…But one thing is clear, Canada is well positioned to grow its leadership in the life sciences sector,” said Champagne.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also weighed in on the news, touting its potential impact on job production.
“This funding will maintain and create 500 well-paying, full time jobs at the Resilience facility in Mississauga, positions that people can rely on to provide for their families. It will also mean 50 co-op spots which will help young people get their foot in the door in a growing sector,” he said.
The federal budget earmarked $2.2 billion over the next seven years to bolster Canada’s vaccine production.
That included $500 million for capital and infrastructure at universities and research hospitals, and $1 billion in Strategic Innovation Fund money to help the most promising life science and biomanufacturing companies.
Earlier in the year, Procurement Minister Anita Anand told a House committee that she had asked international suppliers to manufacture their vaccine in Canada and all declined.
“The manufacturers reviewed the identified assets here in Canada and concluded that biomanufacturing capacity in this country, at the time of contract, which was last August and September, was too limited to justify the investment of capital and expertise to start manufacturing in Canada,” Anand said on Feb. 4.
Being at the mercy of external suppliers has at times caused unexpected shipment delays over the past several months.
In a statement to CTVNews.ca, Conservative health critic Michelle Rempel-Garner said today’s announcement doesn't solve the issue of getting more vaccines in more arms in the immediate term.
“Today’s announcement will not help Canadians get a COVID-19 vaccine faster. It’s inexcusable that Canada is well over a year into the pandemic and Justin Trudeau is finally investing in the manufacturing of vaccines in Canada,” said said.
This week, Canada is receiving 4.5 million vaccine doses from Pfizer and Moderna, the largest batch to date.
With a file from The Canadian Press.