A team of researchers in Saskatchewan has just reached a new milestone in its COVID-19 vaccine research. Narcity spoke with a lead researcher on the team about the latest developments and according to him, human testing is just around the corner. The vaccine has already proven to be successful in animals which means that Canada’s first COVID-19 vaccine could be tested on humans this fall. 

Researchers all over the world have been scrambling to develop a COVID-19 vaccine. One of the notable teams is based in Saskatchewan. 

In March of this year, Narcity spoke with Dr. Volker Gerdts, CEO and Director of VIDO-InterVac, about the vaccine he and his team had been working on. 

Animal testing began back in March on a number of ferrets at the University of Saskatchewan’s Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization-International Vaccine Centre. 

It seems though the animal testing has been successful and now the team is looking into human testing in the next foreseeable future, Gerdts told Narcity in a follow-up interview on May 26. 

According to the researcher, ferrets were given two doses of the immunization and exposed to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. 

The vaccine seems to be working as it produced a strong immune response and generated neutralizing antibodies, he told us.

It also proved to be successful in decreasing viral infection in the upper respiratory tract to nearly undetectable levels. 

“This means that the animals are protected from the disease and they are not shedding much of the virus to others,” explained Gerdts. 

He called this a “key milestone in the development pathway.”

Gerdts is now looking into beginning to test the vaccine on humans in clinical trials. 

In order to do that, the vaccine needs to be proven safe for human consumption.

The goal is to prove this through the animal testing stage.

Over the summer, the animals will be monitored and the data will be reviewed in order to prove its safety for clinical testing.  

While this is going on, the team has the vaccine being manufactured outside of the province.  

By fall, Gerdst hopes for the clinical testing begin. 

This process is anticipated to take a long time but by early next year, the researchers hope to have the vaccine available under “emergency authorization.”

This would allow vaccines to be targetted towards populations who are at high risk, including the elderly and people with pre-existing health conditions. 

B.C. already considered doing a similar model in the province, should a vaccine be ready for human use. 

“We are excited by these results and are continuing to develop our vaccine towards regulatory approval,” said project leader Dr. Darryl Falzarano in a University of Saskatchewan press release. 

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