The inhaled COVID-19 vaccine which is being developed at McMaster is one of the research projects at the Hamilton university that is receiving further federal funding.
FedDev Ontario Minister Filomena Tassi, who is the Liberal member of Parliament for Hamilton West—Ancaster—Dundas, announced today that the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) is dedicating $61 million in funding to support medical research, training and innovation. Close to two-thirds of the funding, which comes via CIHR’s Clinical Trials funding initiative, will go to the Pan-Canadian Accelerating Clinical Trials Consortium (ACT), which is co-led by McMaster professor P.J. Devereaux, who is also a senior scientist at the Population Health Research Institute (PHRI). It will receive $39M to support clinical trials work.
Of the six other research projects, the largest funding allotment is for pathology and molecular medicine professor emeritus Dr. Fiona Smaill and her research team’s work to develop a next-gen inhaled vaccine against COVID-19. Smaill and her colleagues are receiving $8.2 million for Phase 2 human trials to evaluate the safety and immunogenicity of the vaccine, which will be delivered by inhaled aerosol. The current vaccines are given by a needle.
The work, which is part of the McMaster-based Canada’s Global Nexus for Pandemics and Biological Threats, has the potential to lead to better protection against strains of SARS-CoV-2, including Omicron variants.
“If we can show the new inhaled vaccine is safe and effective, as we anticipate, the impact will be significant for human health, medical costs, and better quality of life,” stated Smaill (pictured, cover image).
Smaill is leading the trials with infectious diseases scientist Matthew Miller; professor of medicine Zhou Xing; associate professor of medicine Brian Lichty; pathology and molecular medicine professor Mark Loeb, who is also Mac’s Canada Research Chair in Infectious Diseases Research, and assistant professor of respirology Imran Satia.
In mid-2022, ahead of Phase 1 of human trials, Smaill explained that researchers were encouraged by their research in animals. They came away from that stage believing the inhaled vaccine will last longer, be more effective, and stand up well to future variants of the COVID-19 virus.
“With new variants, mutations occur in the spike protein on the outside of the virus,” Smaill stated in June 2022. “This makes the current vaccines less effective because they target only the spike protein. However, other proteins inside the virus stay the same. Targeting multiple proteins means that if clinical trials show that our multivalent COVID vaccine is effective, it will still protect against infection with new variants as they come along.”
‘Most informed way’
The aforementioned $39M that ACT is receiving is intended to build out Canada’s clinical trial capacity and will support hundreds of researchers nationwide.
“Clinical trials are the most informed way of determining whether or not effects exist for drugs and interventions, and they’re a crucial part of how we advance health for Canadians. ACT and its 11 clinical trial units and 28 research networks from across the country will work to ensure that Canadians have access to participate in clinical trials that are relevant to their health,” Devereaux stated.
Further information about the research projects at McMaster who received funding through CIHR on Thursday is accessible via brighterworld.mcmaster.ca.
The full name of Tassi’s cabinet portfolio, FedDev Ontario, is the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario.
— with files from Anthony Urciuoli
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