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Vancouver expertise tapped to lead new Canadian biotech hub

Coalition assembled for a more rapid national response to future pandemics and other health challenges
AbCellera Biologics, which is building a new research centre in Vancouver, is among B.C. firms at the forefront of biotech and immune research. | Chung Chow

Research into biotech will be getting a big boost in Canada, and the University of British Columbia  has been chosen to head up the project.

The Vancouver university is leading a new multi-sector coalition involving more than 50 institutions, ranging from the BC Business Council to the University of Oxford to the NanoMedicines Innovation Network.

Dubbed Canada’s Immuno-Engineering and Biomanufacturing Hub (CIEBH), the new organization's goal is to make sure the country has a "seamless drug development pipeline," creating a better response to future pandemics and other health challenges, according to a press release.

Specifically, they want to be meeting those health challenges within 100 days.

“This partnership will position us for rapid and efficient response to future pandemics and public health crises,” says Dalhousie Faculty of Medicine's dean Dr. David Anderson in a press release. “COVID-19 has proven how critical it is for us to harness the power of collaboration to accelerate vaccine research and development."

Federal funding for the hub will go towards research, talent development, and building infrastructure to support the manufacturing of treatments.

"Together with our outstanding alliance of partners, we will ensure Canada is prepared to respond rapidly to future health challenges with homegrown solutions,” said UBC's interim president Dr. Deborah Buszard in the release.

Canadian companies, including Vancouver's AbCellera Biologics and Gandeeva Therapeutics, are at the forefront of biotech and immune research, including lipid nanoparticles, engineered antibodies, and mRNA-based vaccines, according to the release, and the hub will help bring it all together.

“B.C. is poised to become one of the world’s leading biotech and manufacturing hubs,” said  UBC vice-president of health, Dr. Dermot Kelleher.