Ontario and feds fund flu vaccine production plant
April 30, 2021
TORONTO – Three levels of government – federal, provincial, and municipal – have thrown their support behind Sanofi Pasteur in building an “end-to-end” influenza vaccine manufacturing facility in Toronto. Together, the partners will invest nearly $1 billion to get the site up and running, which is expected by 2027.
For its part, Paris-based Sanofi will invest more than $455 million and will create 165 new skilled jobs and maintain 1,100 others.
The federal government is investing $455 million, while the government of Ontario is contributing $55 million, making this a $925 million project. In addition, Sanofi will also invest at least $79 million a year, over eight years, to fund Canadian research and development.
Once it is operational, Sanofi will be able to manufacture influenza vaccines at population scale at the Toronto facility. It will have the capacity to produce enough vaccine doses to support the entire Canadian population within approximately six months of the World Health Organization (WHO) identifying a pandemic influenza strain.
The Sanofi site is located at the north end of Toronto, on the former Connaught Labs campus. Connaught Labs was sold to Sanofi in 1989. At the announcement of the new project, federal Innovation, Science and Industry minister, Francois-Philippe Champagne, said: “This is a landmark investment, and everyone is winning today. Scientists and researchers will rebuild the ecosystem of biomanufacturing in Canada, and Canadians will become more resilient.”
The new project is being constructed on a solid base of local expertise, as Sanofi Pasteur’s Toronto Site currently manufactures vaccines annually for pertussis, polio, diphtheria, and tetanus, among others, for more than 60 countries worldwide – including Canada.
Speaking at the announcement, Ontario Premier Doug Ford said, in regard to influenza vaccines, “We are never going to have to rely on any country or leader – we’ll be self-sufficient.”
The premier noted, “Throughout the pandemic, we’ve been making strategic investments to develop made-in-Ontario PPE, so we would be less reliant on others. We’re doing the exact same thing today with this great announcement about vaccines.”
The project is part of an effort to rebuild Canada’s ability to produce its own vaccines in cases of pandemics. Since March 2020, the federal government has already announced investments of $569 million to spur advances in vaccines, therapies and bio-manufacturing projects, many of them to combat the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19.
For its part, influenza virus kills or sickens millions of people around the world each year. It is critical to have access to a reliable supply of vaccines, especially in case an especially deadly variant of the flu virus emerges.
Founded as the Connaught Antitoxin Laboratories and University Farm in 1917, Sanofi Pasteur’s Canadian facility has supported numerous scientific breakthroughs while making significant public health contributions. One hundred years ago, the Toronto site was home to some of the initial research for the discovery of insulin, as well as large-scale commercial insulin production for all of Canada until the 1980s.
It also produced an antitoxin for diphtheria, the leading public health threat to Canadian children in the early 1900s and was an important partner in the eradication of polio in North America and smallpox around the world.
Connaught was merged with Institut Mérieux in 1989, and in 1999 it was transformed into the Canadian component of Pasteur Mérieux Connaught, owned by Rhône-Poulenc. A series of acquisitions since then have transferred ownership of what used to be the Connaught Laboratories to the global vaccine business of Sanofi.
In 2018, Sanofi made another historic investment at the Toronto Site, to establish one of the most advanced vaccine bulk manufacturing facilities in the world. At the time, this was the largest investment ever made by Sanofi globally into a single facility, more than $500M (CAD).
This manufacturing facility will produce seven antigens: five-component-pertussis, plus diphtheria and tetanus, to help meet global demand for more life-saving vaccines for children and adults worldwide. License approval for Canada and the United States is expected in 2024 for the five-component-pertussis and in 2025 for diphtheria and tetanus.
In addition to the 1,225 highly skilled jobs created and maintained in Canada, another 200 co-op positions will be created through this project. Sanofi Canada has signed on to the Government of Canada’s 50 – 30 Challenge, pledging to increase the representation and inclusion of diverse groups within their workplace by attaining gender parity and significant representation of under-represented groups within their senior leadership.
The Government of Canada’s funding for the influenza vaccine project comes from the Strategic Innovation Fund (SIF).
Thus far, the Government of Canada has invested in ten firms through SIF that accelerate vaccine, therapy and biomanufacturing capacity in Canada.
In March 2020, the Strategic Innovation Fund (SIF) was identified to deliver the Medical Countermeasures (MCM) initiative.
SIF was granted authority to invest $792 million under the MCM stream to fund clinical trials and manufacturing capacity at scale to increase the chances of timely vaccines, treatments and improve Canada’s long-term pandemic preparedness. The first project, Abcellera Biologics, was announced within 19 days of the start of project negotiations.
The Medical Countermeasures stream is divided into three types of projects: vaccines, therapies and bio-manufacturing projects. Under the MCM, to date SIF has 10 announced projects, including:
- Abcellera Biologics Inc. (British Columbia, federal investment of $175 million.) The project is in direct response to Canada’s fight against COVID-19 and Canada’s ability to respond to future pandemics. It will enable the rapid discovery of antibody therapies to treat and prevent COVID-19 and establish a Good Manufacturing Practice antibody production facility for Canada’s long-term emergency preparedness.
- Variation Biotechnologies Inc.’s project supports the development of Canada’s MCMs in immediate response to COVID-19. Variation Biotechnologies Inc. (VBI) will advance the development of an enveloped Virus-Like-Particle (eVLP) vaccine candidate for COVID-19 through pre-clinical studies and clinical trials.
- Precision NanoSystems Inc. will help advance the development of a ribonucleic acid (RNA) vaccine against COVID-19 through pre-clinical studies and clinical trials.
- Medicago’s project advances a virus-like particle vaccine, developed on the company’s unique plant-based production platform, through clinical trials. It will also establish a large-scale vaccine and antibody production facility to increase Canada’s domestic bio-manufacturing capacity.