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

News release

Image of someone's hands holding a syringe next to the caption $11.1 to advance mRNA vaccine technology at the University of British Columbia

Funding of $11.1 million for two UBC projects that will improve pathogen response and boost the impact of B.C. biotechnology on the global stage

October 3, 2022 – Vancouver, British Columbia – Pacific Economic Development Canada

British Columbians continue to feel the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, whether at home, at work, or in their community. Throughout the pandemic, science has provided the greatest defense, particularly through mRNA vaccines. These vaccines trigger the body’s immune response to help protect against infection and severe illness.

Today, the Honourable Harjit S. Sajjan, Minister for International Development and Minister responsible for the Pacific Economic Development Agency of Canada (PacifiCan), announced over $11.1 million in funding through PacifiCan for the University of British Columbia (UBC) to undertake two new projects to enhance the delivery and efficacy of mRNA vaccines.

The first of these two complementary projects is receiving $3.5 million in PacifiCan support. It aims to optimize how mRNA vaccines are administered on a cellular level, improving uptake into the body. This will reduce potential side-effects of mRNA vaccines, improve their efficacy and allow for a smaller vaccine dosage. Research conducted through this project will help to streamline the production of existing mRNA vaccines and inform the development of future medicines across the globe.

The second project, with $7.6 million in PacifiCan support, aims to identify and address new COVID-19 variants before they can spread. Through studying existing variants at the molecular level, researchers will use Artificial Intelligence (AI) to predict and develop mRNA vaccine treatments for potential future pathogens. This project will enable a nimble, home-grown response to emerging COVID-19 variants, helping to protect Canadians, and further solidify B.C. as a leader in the biotechnology sector.

Investing in the health and safety of all Canadians is a key priority for the Government of Canada. In British Columbia, PacifiCan is committed to advancing the research and commercialization of life-saving biotechnology, supporting the regional economy, and building pandemic resilience across the globe. 


"PacifiCan is committed to supporting British Columbia’s life sciences sector and these projects at the University of British Columbia reflect that commitment. Establishing a home-grown pipeline for mRNA vaccine research will not only save lives, but create jobs for British Columbians and position Canada as a global leader in biotechnology innovation.”
- The Honourable Harjit S. Sajjan, Minister of International Development and Minister responsible for the Pacific Economic Development Agency of Canada

“With cutting-edge research led by some of the brightest minds globally, UBC continues to excel in biotechnology and life sciences research and innovation. With the generous support of the Government of Canada through PacifiCan announced today, our researchers will be able to help development treatments for new COVID-19 variants and improve the efficacy of mRNA vaccines and other therapeutics for a wide range of diseases.”
- Santa J. Ono, President and Vice-Chancellor, University of British Columbia 

“UBC has long been a major driver of the B.C. biotech sector, but those connections and their outputs really gained international attention during the pandemic. AbCellera, Acuitas, and Precision Nanosystems, among many others, are now major players in the treatment and prevention of diseases. This funding builds off many years of collaboration between UBC and local biotech companies and will enable us to continue developing and refining vaccines, drugs, and biologics.”
- Dr. Leonard Foster, Professor, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of British Columbia

Quick facts

  • PacifiCan is investing $11,180,000 through its Regional Innovation Ecosystem program. This program aims to grow and nurture priority sectors across British Columbia, building an inclusive ecosystem that allows those sectors to innovate and compete globally.

  • Projects funded through the Regional Innovation Ecosystem program must support at least one priority sector, such as life sciences, clean technology, or agriculture. Additionally, these projects must support the hiring and training of under-represented groups, including Indigenous peoples, women, and youth. 

  • PacifiCan is the Government of Canada’s regional development agency dedicated to British Columbia. PacifiCan promotes growth and diversification in British Columbia’s economy by enhancing innovation, improving business competitiveness, and promoting inclusive growth.

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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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