U of A joins new Canadian biomanufacturing collaboration

The University of Alberta-based Alberta Cell Therapy Manufacturing (ACTM) has partnered with The Ottawa Hospital's Biotherapeutics Manufacturing Centre (BMC) and BioCanRx to strengthen Canada's biomanufacturing industry and boost its capacity to produce medical treatments and vaccines.

"It takes teamwork to get biomanufacturing done and that's what we're doing. (This collaboration) with Ottawa puts us at the forefront in Canada," ACTM scientific director Dr. Greg Korbutt told Taproot. "This would allow us to maybe get good access to products that we produce."

ACTM is the only facility of its kind in Western Canada and is known for its Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) facility and clean rooms, which offer the level of cleanliness and sterility required for manufacturing.

Korbutt said ACTM will help BMC with the fill-finish process, which involves filling vials with pharmaceutical drugs.

The U of A facility previously partnered with BMC and Entos Pharmaceuticals to manufacture a made-in-Edmonton COVID-19 vaccine candidate.

A photo of a man in protective gear holding vials. The U of A's Alberta Cell Therapy Manufacturing (ACTM) partnered with The Ottawa Hospital's Biotherapeutics Manufacturing Centre (BMC) and BioCanRx to boost Canada's biomanufacturing capacity. (Supplied)

"Accessing the facilities and expertise at ACTM and The Ottawa Hospital has significantly helped propel our COVID-19 vaccine candidate into clinical trials," said Entos CEO Dr. John Lewis.

According to Korbutt, Canada has the potential to play a key role in new breakthrough therapies and vaccines if "we invest in multiple facilities across the country."

"Biomanufacturing in Canada has significantly dropped off. We're relying on companies like Moderna and Pfizer and other countries to get vaccines and this is not necessarily strictly related to just COVID-19. This can be related to other vaccines and other drugs that you need to put into vials," he told Taproot.

In addition to manufacturing domestic vaccines, the new collaboration will also focus on developing a potential gene therapy for a rare and deadly lipid disorder, as well as therapeutic cells used to treat septic shock.

"Canada has some of the best scientific minds in the world working to develop new therapies and vaccines, but they have been limited by our lack of domestic biomanufacturing capacity," said Duncan Stewart, executive vice-president of research at BMC.