OTTAWA | Two pharmaceuticals here criticize Ottawa’s lack of support for the development of Canadian COVID-19 vaccines as dose shipments trickle in from abroad.
“There is a real lack of leadership from the federal government,” laments Dr. John Lewis, professor in the Department of Oncology at the University of Alberta and CEO of Entos Pharmaceuticals, an Edmonton-based company.
It specializes in cancer treatments, just like BioNTech, the start-up Germany who joined forces with Pfizer to create the very first vaccine approved to fight COVID-19.
Entos solicited $ 48 million from Ottawa in March to develop two vaccine candidates. At the same time, another Toronto-based pharmaceutical, Providence Therapeutics, was asking for $ 35 million to develop an mRNA vaccine similar to those from Pfizer and Moderna.
But Entos and Providence only have five and eight million dollars respectively from the federal government. Four other pharmaceuticals, including Quebec companies Glycovax Pharma and Biodextris, obtained similar amounts.
Far behind Washington
In November, Canada had spent $ 721 million in support measures for medical research and vaccine development, according to data compiled by the Parliamentary Budget Officer. This is a tiny fraction of the $ 225 billion spent to deal with the pandemic.
By comparison, by summer, the US government had already invested more than $ 10 billion in vaccine development.
“If we had the support we needed in the spring, we would be on the cusp of delivering a solution to Canadians,” says Providence Therapeutics Scientific Director Dr. Piyush Patel.
Instead, he started testing his vaccine on volunteers just a week ago and hopes to have demonstrated its effectiveness by the end of the year.
Not too late
The cabinet of the Minister of Innovation, François-Philippe Champagne, assures us that “each company which has submitted a submission has been examined by our working groups made up of leading scientific and industrial experts”.
“We will continue to make significant investments in promising Canadian vaccines and therapeutic candidates,” said spokesperson John Power.
Dr Lewis stresses that it is not too late to invest massively and thus protect themselves from the protectionist measures of other countries, especially since the emergence of new variants of the virus risks forcing manufacturers to review the formula. their vaccines, he warns.