Western’s Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry has received $16 million as part of the new federal Biosciences Research Infrastructure Fund (BRIF) for the expansion of its state-of-the-art biocontainment level 3 (CL3) facility – Imaging Pathogens for Knowledge Translation (ImPaKT), located within the new Pathogen Research Centre (PRC).
The grant, established in 2021 under the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) funding program, supports the expansion of ImPaKT to include a facility to test new antimicrobial strategies to prevent the airborne spread of infectious diseases and a facility to produce antimicrobial therapies and vaccines for human use.
The new expansion will also include a drug manufacturing facility, allowing both research and industry partners to produce pharmaceutical-grade drugs right here at Western. “The funding will also facilitate the development of a vaccine bank, which will include ready-to-use, pre-formulated vaccines for rapid delivery to prevent the spread of all future epidemics and pandemics,” said Eric Arts, executive director of the ImPaKT Facility.
On Wednesday, Nov. 16, François-Philippe Champagne, minister of innovation, science and industry, recognized the urgent need for post-secondary and research institutions to upgrade biocontainment facilities to meet the immediate threat of human pathogens and to prepare for the possible pandemics of the future.
The BRIF grant is a crucial step to support the ImPaKT Facility’s mission to address gaps in Canada’s pandemic response capacity by building an expanded CL3 PRC.
“ImPaKT had just been set up when the pandemic hit, and we responded to it quickly by offering our expertise in pathogen research, and supporting public policy through efforts like our wastewater surveillance program – the first of its kind in Canada,” said Arts, who is a Canada Research Chair in HIV pathogenesis and viral control and professor of microbiology and immunology at Schulich Medicine & Dentistry.
“This announcement recognizes that crucial work and attests to the fact that ImPaKT has the potential to develop into something bigger. We are uniquely positioned in terms of talent, resources and industry partnerships to be the leader in pathogen-fighting research in Canada.”
ImPaKT combines Public Health Agency of Canada-certified containment level standards with advanced non-invasive imaging equipment. It was among the first biocontainment facilities in Canada to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic by supporting research into virus spread, partnering with the industry to test vaccines, therapeutics and antimicrobial materials.
“Western has a long history of leadership in health research, including in virology, infectious diseases and the development of vaccines and other therapeutics,” said acting vice-president (research), Bryan Neff. “During the pandemic, we have seen many of these efforts coalesce at the ImPaKT Facility, which will now be able to facilitate new lines of inquiry and support our research community’s efforts to have a greater impact.”
“The COVID-19 pandemic clearly demonstrated the importance of cutting-edge research in infectious diseases. Ensuring labs meet standards and are well equipped to combat new challenges in biosciences will contribute to a healthy future for Canadians,” said Roseann O’Reilly Runte, president and CEO, CFI.
The minister announced an investment of more than $127 million through the CFI to support eight biocontainment facilities across Canada.
The 2021 federal budget had allocated $500 million to support BRIF as part of Canada’s Biomanufacturing and Life Sciences Strategy.