Ottawa Hospital to manufacture COVID-19 vaccine
The Ottawa Civic hospital is seen Tuesday January 7, 2020 in Ottawa. (Adrian Wyld/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
OTTAWA -- Three COVID-19 vaccines will be manufactured at Ottawa's largest hospital for human clinical trials.
The Ottawa Hospital announced its Biotherapeutics Manufacturing Centre (BMC) will fill a critical gap in Canada's vaccine manufacturing capacity.
"I think it's very important that we have the capacity to be able to produce these kinds of products, particularly vaccines in the midst of the pandemic in Canada and be able to have control over that production," said Dr. Duncan Stewart in an interview with CTV News Ottawa.
The executive vice-president of research at the Ottawa Hospital says the Ottawa Hospital is one of the few hospitals with capacity to manufacture COVID-19 vaccines for human clinical trials.
The first COVID-19 vaccine that the Biotherapeutics Manufacturing Centre will produce is a DNA-based vaccine called Covigenix VAX-001, developed by Entos Pharmaceuticals in Alberta. The Ottawa Hospital says it has shown promise in laboratory-studies and is stable at room temperatures.
"We're involved in the production of a number of vaccines, this is the first one that's being announced," said Dr. Stewart Wednesday afternoon.
"So we're involved in the final stage of vaccine production – so that's what we call the fill finish, so filling up those vials that you see on television that are then delivered to the centres that are going to be doing the injections. That's a critical part of the manufacturing process, obviously."
The Ottawa Hospital's BMC will also manufacture two other COVID-19 vaccines for clinical trials, with details to be released at a later date.
CTV News at Six chief anchor Graham Richardson asked Dr. Stewart how long it would take to have the vaccine approved by Health Canada.
"I can't give you an exact estimate of that," said Dr. Stewart, adding data could be submitted to Health Canada for approval by the end of the year.
"It's going to go into clinical trials and there's usually three phases: the first safety phase to make sure the product is safe and well tolerated. Then it goes into what we call a Phase 2, which is usually a few thousand patients to see whether there is any indication of effectiveness. Then finally it goes into Phase 3, so this is the tens of thousands of patients and we're looking to see whether the vaccine will prevent infection."
The Covigenix VAX-001 vaccine will be produced by the Ottawa Hospital and Alberta Cell Therapy Manufacturing for clinical trials at the Canadian Centre for Vaccinology.
The Ottawa Hospital says the BMC is only producing experimental COVID-19 vaccines for clinical trials, but if capacity were expanded, the facility could help in manufacturing approved vaccines for use in the general population.
Vaccine manufacturing requires specialized 'clean room' facilities and highly trained staff. The hospital says with more than 40 experienced staff and various kinds of advanced equipment, BMC can manufacture many different types of vaccines.
The Ottawa Hospital Biotherapeutics Manufacturing Centre is also currently manufacturing a cell-based therapy for a clinical trial in patients with severe COVID-19.