VIDO - Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization, Home of InterVac - International Vaccine Centre :: INSIDE VIDO-InterVac e-Newsletter A Research organization of the University of Saskatchewan
Winter 2010  
Telling the inside story of leading-edge infectious disease research aimed at securing both animal and human health around the globe. - Join the staff of VIDO-InterVac to watch the world-leading InterVac facility come to life through this e-newsletter Inside VIDO-InterVac.
Working together, our multidisciplinary research teams develop vaccines and vaccine-enhancing technologies that are reshaping the landscape of infectious disease research.

In This Issue

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Featured Items

Read the recent BioBusiness magazine cover story on VIDO - InterVac

Watch our new video at Research Communications

Introducing Inside VIDO-InterVac -- A Message from Andy Potter

Dr. Andy Potter, Director of VIDO-InterVac
Dr. Andy Potter,
Director of

Dr. Andy Potter,
Director of VIDO-InterVac

With InterVac just over a year away from opening, this is a very exciting time for everyone at VIDO-InterVac. We want to share the excitement of watching this world-leading facility come to life through this e-newsletter, Inside VIDO-InterVac.

Each year there seems to be an emerging infectious disease threat to human or animal health, or both.  In past years diseases like West Nile Virus, SARS and other zoonotic diseases have emerged and affected the health of both animals and humans.

These diseases harm not only the health and quality of life of animals and humans, but have profound impacts on the economy. What makes them even more dangerous is that increasing global travel, changing agricultural practices, and climate change are all enabling these diseases to spread around the world swiftly.

That’s why we’re building a Containment Level 3 research facility, which we’ve named the International Vaccine, or InterVac. This facility will be used to study and develop vaccines for infectious diseases. “Containment Level” refers to the level of precautions required to isolate dangerous biological agents in an enclosed facility. This $140-million facility will be one of the largest Containment Level 3 (CL3) vaccine research and development facilities in North America.

When construction is completed in spring 2011, InterVac will bring full circle the work of VIDO and its partners in academia, government and industry, through the ability to conduct research, develop vaccines, and test them effectively. This capability will help ensure new vaccines with benefits to animal and human health get to market sooner.

Aside from enormous health and economic benefits, VIDO-InterVac will create economic spin-offs for Saskatoon and the province and a number of research and other support jobs.

Students and researchers will also benefit from InterVac --- more than 40 per cent of VIDO’s existing staff are graduate students and post-doctoral fellows. With the addition of InterVac, opportunities to collaborate in the development of life-saving vaccines will be enormous. We’re already attracting interest from scientists and students from around the world.

We hope you enjoy this quarterly publication. Your feedback and comments are welcome any time.

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New Capabilities, New Name: From VIDO to VIDO-InterVac

New VIDO-InterVac Website
New VIDO-InterVac Website

The addition of the International Vaccine Centre (InterVac) to VIDO will enhance the world’s capacity to protect animal and human health, so much so that the organization has changed its name to VIDO-InterVac.

Visit VIDO-InterVac at our new website []. The website provides information for livestock producers, students and researchers, the media, and any individual or organization interested in vaccine research and development at VIDO-InterVac.

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Constructing InterVac – Unique Building Processes for a Unique Facility

InterVac Facility
The InterVac facility as of
November, 2010

Construction Countdown

  • Construction on InterVac will be completed by spring 2011.
  • More than 125 employees have been involved in the construction of InterVac and more than 750,000 hours of construction work have been completed on the facility to date. 
  • More than 7,000 cubic meters of concrete, 370 kilometers of steel bar to reinforce the concrete and 280 kilometers of wire and cabling were used in the construction of InterVac. This amount of concrete could build about 700 residential homes.

New Concrete Application Developed in Building of InterVac

Construction Planning
Cam Ewart (right), U of S
Facilities Management
reviews InterVac blueprints
with Dr. Andy Potter (left)
  • Concrete was used for the floors, in the walls and in the ceilings of each individual containment lab. To apply the concrete, contractors created a new technique – they pumped the material from the bottom of the forms (wood and/or steel assemblies that hold concrete in position until it sets) so that the concrete flowed upwards. This process forced air out through the top of the forms and resulted in a glass-like finish on the walls.

Special Features Ensure Pathogens are Contained

  • A key safety element of biocontainment facilities is the ability to control air flow throughout various areas of the facility. To prevent pathogens from escaping through an opening or doorway, air pressure is maintained at different atmospheric pressures. A complex Building Control Management System monitors the air pressure and controls the air flow in every room.
  • Facility Structure
    Facility structure
  • Entrance points into the high containment labs are equipped with interlocked doors, meaning two or more doors cannot be opened simultaneously.
  • Air pressure resistant “submarine style” stainless steel doors are located at all key laboratory area entrance points. Inflatable seals around the door perimeter prevent air from escaping.
  • Exhausted air passes through two High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters which capture high percentages of very small pollutants and particles (minimum of 99.97% of airborne particles 0.3 micrometers (µm) in diameter.) HEPA filters are also located on all other service connections where air could possibly flow such as plumbing vent pipes and the inflatable gaskets on the air pressure resistant doors.

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Q & A on Containment and Biosafety

Containment and Biosafety
Containment and Biosafety

What does “Containment Level 3 facility” mean?

The term “containment” describes the type of safety measures and equipment needed within a facility to ensure workers are safe when studying certain types of disease-causing organisms. In the United States, the term used to describe this is “biosafety.” 

Organisms are classed according to the level of containment required to minimize the release of infectious organisms into the laboratory and surrounding environment. Containment Level 3 organisms may be transmitted through the air and can cause serious or life-threatening diseases.

Containment Level 3 facilities have features to prevent the transmission of organisms such as HEPA filtration systems for exhausted laboratory air and strictly controlled laboratory access.

What are some examples of microbes and diseases that can only be studied in a CL3 facility like InterVac?

Containment Level 3 (CL3) disease organisms that can be examined at InterVac include:

  • Tuberculosis
  • Influenza (including avian influenza)
  • Hantavirus
  • Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE, also known as ‘Mad Cow’ disease)
  • Chronic wasting disease (CWD)
  • Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS)
  • West Nile virus
  • Hepatitis C

How many CL3 facilities are there in Canada? Why is InterVac Unique?

There are about 90 CL3 facilities in Canada. The vast majority of these are small labs that are associated with provincial health departments and universities. Various federal government agencies operate CL3 facilities for research, diagnostic and/or training purposes. InterVac is unique because it will be the largest CL3 facilities in North America capable of testing vaccines in all animal species, including large animals.

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VIDO-InterVac: Building Partnerships for Improved Vaccine Research and Development

Even as the world economy continues to experience challenges, VIDO-InterVac is expanding its business relationships and creating new market and partnership opportunities with human and animal health companies.

“Through initiatives focused on growth and competitiveness, our business goal is to establish VIDO-InterVac as the backbone of new corporate collaborations in vaccine research and development,” says Dr. Paul Hodgson, associate director of business development for VIDO-InterVac.

In terms of growth, the organization is focusing on several geographic areas. VIDO-InterVac is already planning for a future beyond the opening of InterVac in Spring 2011, and to help ensure this the organization will have a major presence at the world’s largest biotechnology conference this year, BIO 2010, in Chicago.

“We look forward to the opportunities that VIDO-InterVac will present in emerging diseases vaccine research and development,” says Hodgson.

Read More

Lower Costs and Higher Immune Responses Possible with Adjuvants

The recent H1N1 pandemic has prompted worldwide public debate on the use of adjuvants, or “vaccine boosters,” leading to increased awareness about how adjuvants can play a role in making vaccines more effective and less costly.

Dr. Volker Gerdts, associate director research at VIDO-InterVac, is one of several VIDO-InterVac scientists exploring how the animal and human immune systems respond to vaccination, believes the use of adjuvants will lead to higher immune responses to infectious disease, and will make vaccines more effective.

“We are researching the potential of combining adjuvants to improve vaccine efficacy,” says Gerdts. “As adjuvants and antigens work together to produce better immune responses, less antigen would mean cost savings in the production of antigens in vaccines, and therefore faster access to vaccines.”

Unlike antigens, adjuvants can also specifically target certain parts of the body. As most infection starts at the mucosal surface, either through the respiratory system or the digestive system, it may be beneficial to develop vaccines that target mucosal surfaces and combat infection before it spreads to the rest of the body.

“The effectiveness of adjuvants, and the cost-savings benefits that would exist through modifying the way adjuvants are used are important considerations, especially when developing pandemic preparedness strategies,” Gerdts says.

Read more about the research work of these VIDO scientists in BioPharm International, which publishes articles on the science and business of biopharmaceuticals.

Read More

Canada’s Largest Life Sciences Publication Features VIDO-InterVac

BioBusiness Magazine Cover
Director Dr. Andy
Potter on the Cover
of BioBusiness

InterVac is featured in the January/February issue of BioBusiness. The five-page story (including cover photo) features Dr. Andy Potter and discusses InterVac’s benefits, capabilities, and how InterVac will enhance the world’s capacity to protect human and animal health.

Bio Business is Canada’s largest circulation life sciences publication, reaching an audience of almost 35,000 in the biotechnology sector.

Read More

 Also: VIDO-InterVac Research Summaries

VIDO-InterVac Scientist Named Canada Research Chair

Dr. Philip Griebel
Dr. Philip Griebel

Dr. Philip Griebel, VIDO-InterVac scientist and professor in the U of S School of Public Health, has been awarded a Canada Research Chair (Tier 1) in Neonatal Mucosal Immunology to identify vaccine strategies that will prevent or clear neonatal viral or bacterial infections. The renewable position is valued at $1.4 million over seven years.  

Griebel’s research program will encompass both creation of targeted vaccines and needle-free delivery (e.g. oral vaccines) against pathogens which enter the body through mucosal surfaces such as those found in the respiratory and intestinal tracts. If successful, this novel approach would also be relevant to a wide range of pathogens including emerging diseases such as influenza.

“This investment in outstanding researchers like Dr. Griebel will not only help develop solutions for pressing national problems in the health sectors but will increase training opportunities for graduate students and other research personnel, thereby building superb research talent for the future in areas of U of S strength,” said U of S vice-president research Karen Chad.

Read More

VIDO-InterVac Scientist Named Jarislowsky Chair in Biotechnology 

Dr. Aaron White
Dr. Aaron White

VIDO-InterVac scientist, Dr. Aaron White has been selected as the Jarislowsky Chair in Biotechnology to develop a strong research program in infectious disease control.

The Chair position has a renewable five-year term and direct involvement with ongoing projects for developing novel strategies for disease control in both humans and animals.  The program will include both basic mechanistic studies and applied studies in the area of molecular approaches to disease control.

The Chair will have academic linkages with the U of S School of Public Health and will work closely with other U of S groups and facilities including the Research Alliance for the Prevention of Infectious Disease (RAPID), and others. An an internship program for both undergraduate and graduate students will be developed.

Read More

Keeping the Public Informed – VIDO-InterVac Community Liaison Committee (CLC)

Dr. Andy Potter, VIDO-InterVac Director and CLC Co-Chair
Dr. Andy Potter,
Director and
CLC Co-Chair
Patricia Roe, CLC Co-Chair
Patricia Roe,
CLC Co-Chair

The University of Saskatchewan is committed to full and open communication on safety issues related to InterVac. In May 2007, an independent Community Liaison Committee (CLC) was created to ensure that any issues of public concern related to InterVac are dealt with. 

The CLC communicates with the public through its own website and regular public meetings and is chaired by Patricia Roe and VIDO-InterVac Director Dr. Andrew Potter.

“The Community Liaison Committee is made up of community leaders who are committed to ensuring that all communication on safety issues related to InterVac is full and transparent,” says Roe.

Current CLC membership includes:

  • Dr. Peter Barrett, physician, former president of the Canadian Medical Association
  • Dick Batten, QC, lawyer and Sutherland resident
  • Brian Bentley, City of Saskatoon Fire Chief
  • Noreen Jeffrey, educator
  • Susan Lamb, CEO of the Meewasin Valley Authority
  • Claire Macsymic, member at large
  • Dr. Ross Findlater, Deputy Medical Health Officer for the Saskatoon Health Region

The CLC will hold its first public meeting in March 2010. For more information, visit the InterVac CLC website [].

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VIDO-InterVac: Did You Know?

  • VIDO was created in 1975 to develop vaccines against economically devastating diseases of livestock, and to ensure the technology reached livestock producers.
  • From a staff of five temporarily housed in trailers, VIDO has grown to approximately 150 people in 100,000 square feet of laboratory and administrative space.
  • With the addition of InterVac, the organization will now have the capability to conduct research on Containment Level 3 agents, and to develop and test vaccines to combat them. InterVac will be one of the largest facilities in North America capable of testing vaccines on large animals.

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2008-09 VIDO-InterVac Annual Report Now Online

Annual Report
Annual Report Cover

Please feel free to download [1.6MB, PDF] and read our annual report.  For a printed copy, please contact:

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Comments on Inside VIDO-InterVac?

VIDO-InterVac is produced jointly by VIDO-InterVac Communications and U of S Research Communications. If you have any comments, feedback, or suggestions you’d like to share regarding this publication, please contact us at

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