Here Are The Canadian Organizations In The Race To A COVID-19 Vaccine

Daniel Tencer
In this publicity photo from the University of Saskatchewan, researchers at VIDO-InterVac work on a COVID-19 vaccine.

MONTREAL ― As the COVID-19 lockdown draws on, it is beginning to dawn on Canadians that a return to normal ― a real return to normal ― means finding a vaccine or effective treatment for the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

To that end, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced in late March that Canada would commit $192 million to efforts to find a vaccine or treatment for COVID-19. 

But even before that announcement, organizations across Canada had launched their own projects on the novel coronavirus, part of a massive and unprecedented worldwide effort to find the cure for a disease that has shut down normal life all over the world and killed 58,000 people as of April 3.

Watch: Companies race to develop a COVID-19 vaccine. Story continues below.


A key moment came on Jan. 10, when researchers in China released the genomic sequence for SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. Since then, no fewer than 60 vaccine projects have been launched around the world, by some estimates.

Another key moment came in early March, when researchers at Toronto’s Sunnybrook Medical Centre, the University of Toronto and McMaster University managed to isolate and culture the virus from two patients. This meant that lab-grown copies of the virus would be available for researchers around the world who are looking for a vaccine or treatment.

In the past few months, more than half a dozen projects have sprouted up across Canada in pursuit of a vaccine and using various different approaches to the problem. Here are some of the most promising ones.

University of Saskatchewan: Lessons from previous coronaviruses

The Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization―International Vaccine Centre (VIDO-InterVac) at the University of Saskatchewan has been operating for decades, working on the SARS and MERS viruses, and successfully developing coronavirus vaccines for animals ― though none yet for humans.

In terms of getting government funding, their work was often a tough sell,