Backgrounder: Government of Canada announces funding for advancements in mRNA vaccine technology at the University of British Columbia


Today, the Honourable Harjit S. Sajjan, Minister of International Development and Minister responsible for the Pacific Economic Development Agency of Canada (PacifiCan), announced an investment of over $11.1 million through the Regional Innovation Ecosystem program for two projects at the University of British Columbia (UBC).

These projects will focus on advancing the delivery and efficacy of mRNA vaccine technology. The two project teams will work in tandem, meeting regularly and coordinating research to maximize the value and effectiveness of both projects.

Improve the delivery technology behind mRNA vaccines and other nanomedicines

The University of British Columbia will acquire key equipment and enhance lab resources to improve vaccine delivery technology. In partnership with leading B.C. biotechnology companies, UBC aims to accelerate the development of vaccine delivery techniques for commercial application on a global scale.

Through analyzing how mRNA vaccines interact with cells and create defenses against pathogens, researchers will work to optimize the administration of those vaccines. Key objectives in this research project include minimizing any potential side effects, reducing the necessary vaccine dosage, and optimizing the potency of mRNA vaccines, among others.

This work will advance the development of future mRNA vaccines and other medicines. Expected economic benefits of this project include the creation of 70 new jobs, the training of 80 new highly qualified biotechnology professionals, and revenue growth of at least $90 million for the B.C. biotechnology sector.

Grow B.C. biotech by advancing in-vitro and in-situ antiviral therapy for SARS-CoV2 variants

This project will see UBC acquire key equipment and enhance lab operations to advance antiviral therapy for COVID-19 variants. This will involve identifying, testing and developing responses to existing COVID-19 variants and establishing a vaccine development framework in B.C.

Working closely with B.C. biotechnology companies, UBC will study the COVID-19 Delta variant at a molecular level and use AI predictive models to create mRNA vaccine treatments for potential future variants. Through this process, UBC and its partners will develop a pipeline for rapid anti-viral drug development, enabling a local response to new and emerging COVID-19 variants for worldwide commercial application.

Overall, this will allow B.C. to provide international leadership in vaccine research and raise the visibility of B.C. biotech within the global community. Expected economic benefits of this project include creating at least 170 jobs at UBC and industry partners, training 75 highly qualified personnel and growing revenue by at least $70 million for the B.C. biotechnology sector. 

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Haley Hodgson
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister of Economic Development

Amanda Costa
Senior Communications Advisor
Pacific Economic Development Canada

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