Feds dole out $16M to Western for biocontainment research

The federal government has invested millions of dollars in Western University researchers to further expand biocontainment research aimed at developing new antimicrobial treatments and vaccines.

Western’s Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry received a $16 million endowment from a new federal funding program called the Biosciences Research Infrastructure Fund (BRIF).

The investment is used to strengthen the university’s state-of-the-art biocontainment tertiary facility, called ImPaKT (Imaging Pathogens for Knowledge Translation), a new pathogen research center located in the Dental Sciences Building on the Western Campus.

“Established in 2021 under the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) grant program, this grant supports the expansion of ImPaKT to include a facility to test new antimicrobial strategies to prevent the airborne transmission of infectious diseases, and a facility to produce antimicrobial therapies and vaccines for human use,” a press release read by Western.

The new facility will be home to a manufacturing facility that will allow research and industry partners to produce pharmaceutical-grade drugs, Western said. Funding from the government will also help build a vaccine bank, which includes the development of ready-to-use prepackaged vaccines aimed at preventing the spread of all future epidemics and pandemics.

“ImPaKT was just starting when the pandemic hit,” said Eric Arts, executive director of ImPaKT. Supporting public policy—the first of its kind in Canada—responses quickly.”

ImPaKT combines Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) certified containment rating standards with advanced in-vivo imaging equipment. It is one of the first biocontainment laboratories in the country to study the spread of COVID-19 by collaborating with other industry leaders to test vaccines, therapeutics and antimicrobial materials.

According to Arts, the federal BRIF grant is a critical step needed to support research to fill gaps in Canada’s response to the pandemic.

“This announcement recognizes this vital work and demonstrates the potential for ImPaKT to grow into an even larger company,” said Arts. “We are uniquely positioned with the talent, resources and industry partners to become a Canadian A leader in anti-pathogen research.”

On Wednesday, the federal government announced a $127 million investment through the CFI program to support eight biocontainment facilities across Canada.

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