SFU partners in national biotech hub to accelerate drug development, manufacturing for future pandemics
Simon Fraser University is among key partners in a national biotech innovation hub designed to make Canada a global powerhouse for developing next-generation immune-based therapies in response to pandemics and other health threats.
Canada’s Immuno-Engineering and Biomanufacturing Hub (CIEBH), led by UBC, brings together 50 organizations across academic, industry, government and not-for-profit sectors, including SFU. Their goal is to align the critical mass of immuno-engineering with biomanufacturing and public health strengths from these sectors.
Together they will create a “rapid pipeline” enabling a 100-day response to a range of priority pathogens, from discovery and genomic analysis through research and development, biomanufacturing and processing, testing and commercialization.
SFU will share its strengths in research and innovation. “Canada’s Immuno-Engineering and Biomanufacturing Hub will advance critical research that prepares our province, our country and our world for future pandemics, and I’m so proud that SFU is a key partner,” says SFU President Joy Johnson.
“We bring a lot to the table as an institution with a proven track record in life sciences innovation, and I look forward to developing solutions in collaboration with UBC and the Hub’s academic, industry and government partners.”
SFU’s participation in the hub will be led by Professor Peter Unrau of the Department of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry (MBB), an expert in RNA biochemistry and special advisor in biomanufacturing to SFU’s Vice-President Research and International.
Unrau has developed critical RNA research tools that are now widely used by scientists globally and will provide a unique perspective on approaches to scaling and adopting biomedical technologies.
“As the biotechnology industry in the Lower Mainland grows, SFU researchers are responding with a diversity of research that will help to advance the hub’s mission,” says Unrau. “With a planned medical school for SFU this focus on health-related research will continue to help address BC's expanding healthcare needs."
“Just as SFU played a major role in addressing the former pandemic, with involvement in pandemic modeling, tracking, and therapeutic uptake, we are well-positioned to play a major part in addressing future health threats.”
The CIEBH is one of five new research hubs announced by the federal government to help grow its Biomanufacturing and Life Sciences Strategy. These hubs are supported by funding of $570 million over the next four years through the Canada Biomedical Research Fund. In addition to growing research and training programs the funding will also provide infrastructure needed to support medical treatment development and manufacturing.
SFU is among partners at today’s funding announcement by the federal government. “The Immuno-Engineering and Biomanufacturing Hub (CIEBH) is a testament to Canada's commitment to innovation and collaboration and will position our country as a global leader in developing immune-based therapeutics,” said the Honourable Joyce Murray, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard.
Through their collaboration, researchers will be able to better tackle future pandemics by speeding up vaccine development and production and ensuring the drug development process happens in B.C. and Canada. At the same time, the hub will support the economy through developing and producing innovative Canadian vaccines while strengthening the country’s biotech talent pool.
SFU’s partnership in the hub comes at a time when the university is accelerating its research on pandemic preparation, with provincial funding supporting a new research institute known as the Pacific Institute on Pathogens and Pandemics Society (PIPPS). The new institute will strengthen B.C.’s capacity to prevent, prepare for and respond to pandemics and become more resilient to infectious disease events that threaten our well-being.
If you are interested in participating in the hub and applying for funding from the Canada Biomedical Research Fund, please visit our landing page for more information on SFU's internal process—managed by Institutional Strategic Awards.