Ottawa pharmaceutical lab eyes COVID-19 vaccine with help of blood donations from COVID patients
A nurse gets a swab ready at a temporary COVID-19 test clinic in Montreal, on May 15, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
OTTAWA -- A pharmaceutical company with local ties is working towards stopping COVID-19, hoping to create a vaccine with the help of blood donors who have recovered from COVID-19.
Inside the Ottawa laboratory of VBI Vaccines Inc., chief medical officer Dr. Francisco Diaz-Mitoma, is hopeful they can create a vaccine against the deadly COVID-19 virus.
The former University of Ottawa professor, who founded the company in 2001, is now collaborating with the National Research Council of Canada, and believes that with both their technologies they can create a viable vaccine. Dr. Diaz-Mitoma is also getting help from individuals who have recovered from the deadly virus, collecting donated blood to include in their research.
“One of the properties of this technology is that one can re-create in an artificial way how a virus look,” says Dr. Diaz-Mitoma. “So what we’re identifying in the blood of patients right now is the presence of these antibodies in response to the natural infection so we’re taking those antibodies. And using them to build the best vaccine candidate.”
TSN 1200 Ottawa Senators analyst Gord Wilson is one of those donors. The colour commentator was diagnosed with the novel coronavirus in late March. Wilson says it was a no-brainer when he was approached by the pharmaceutical company in their quest to create a vaccine.
“I’m obviously one of the lucky ones in terms of coming out on the positive side of a positive test,” he says. “If anything can help speed up the process to come up with a vaccine that can help the world, I’m part of a long list of people who would say pick me here’s my blood.”
Dr. Diaz-Mitoma is grateful for the donations from the residents of the city where he built his company. The information collected from the blood samples about how our immune system reacts to this coronavirus will be used by VBI and the NRC to build a prototype vaccine.
The hope is to start testing a prototype soon. Dr. Diaz-Mitoma believes he can deliver the vaccine but it could be months before trials in humans can begin.