Inset photo: (left to right) Dr. Kelley Lee, SFU Faculty of Health Sciences; Dr. Andrew Pinto, University of Toronto Department of Family and Community Medicine; Hon. Soraya Martinez Ferrada, Minister of Tourism of Canada; and, Dr. Ève Dubé, Faculté des sciences sociales, Université Laval. Background image: Wirestock

SFU-led research project awarded $14.6 million funding to prepare for future pandemics

June 04, 2024

Reprinted with permission from SFU News. Original post here.

A new research group based at SFU has received a major funding grant totalling $14.6 million to help support public confidence in and access to vaccines, in preparation for future pandemics.

The Social Sciences and Humanities (SSH) Consortium will be led by Kelley Lee, professor in SFU’s Faculty of Health Sciences, alongside co-director Ève Dubé, adjunct professor in the Faculty of Social Sciences at Université Laval. The funding comes from the Canada Biomedical Research Fund and Biosciences Research Infrastructure Fund—Stage 2, and the BC Knowledge Development Fund.

The SSH Consortium will bring together leading social scientists from across Canada and globally to better understand and support confidence in, and equitable access to, vaccines and other immune-based innovations. This work will support the rapidly advancing field of immuno-engineering, which has the potential to develop new lifesaving and health promoting vaccines and therapeutics.

“Alongside the successful development of innovative products, there is a need to support optimal uptake by the people who need them,” says Lee. “We learned during the COVID-19 pandemic that new vaccines not only need to be safe and effective, but they must also be socially acceptable and accessible.”

Biomanufacturing will be a key component for effectively responding to future pandemic events.  The SSH Consortium will strengthen biomanufacturing in Canada by bridging across the life and bioengineering sciences, public health community, and Canadian society. The team will conduct research to better understand diverse perspectives across the biomanufacturing pipeline, immunization system and wider public. Findings will support knowledge mobilization activities that reduce mis/disinformation, enhance vaccine confidence, and promote equitable access.

“There’s a famous expression saying that it’s vaccination, not vaccines, that prevents diseases. But there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution to enhance vaccine acceptance and uptake,” says Dubé. “This project will generate insights on local communities’ views, values and needs that are crucial to develop tailored interventions to build trust in new vaccines or therapeutics.”

The SSH Consortium will bring together expertise in epidemiology, anthropology, communications, political science, history, law, philosophy, sociology and other fields. The team will work together to understand perspectives, attitudes and needs towards immune-based innovations.

Health equity will be a high priority.  The project will seek to understand the concerns of priority populations, such as Indigenous peoples, racialized communities, rural and remote communities, related to the acceptability and accessibility of new vaccines and therapeutics.