I call this meeting to order.
Welcome, everyone, to meeting number 16 of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health. Pursuant to the orders of reference of April 11 and April 20, 2020, the committee is meeting for the purpose of receiving evidence concerning matters related to the government's response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
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Before we go to the witnesses, I understand that Mr. Jeneroux has a bit of committee business.
I would like to thank the honourable members, and Mr. Davies in particular, for the invitation.
As stated, I am a critical care physician. I work at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto, where I am now. I've had the opportunity also to engage in graduate studies at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, and I chair the Canadian Critical Care Trials Group, a world-leading group of interprofessional academic researchers and patient partners who study the best care for our sickest patients.
My own personal and academic interests, clinically, are around the care of critically ill patients. That is directly relevant to the COVID pandemic. I've had an opportunity to examine other health care systems in well-resourced settings first-hand and academically. Also, my work with the WHO and various non-governmental organizations during SARS and different outbreaks and pandemics over the years includes avian influenza, Middle East respiratory syndrome, and a couple of years of Ebola outbreaks in western Africa and, last year, in the DRC. I have helped the WHO and the Public Health Agency in most of these outbreaks in one capacity or another through guidelines or clinical care on the ground.
In terms of disclosures, I don't have any financial relationships with industry or pharmaceutical companies. I have received peer-reviewed funding from CIHR, and I am supporting the Canadian response to WHO's solidarity trial, which examines and evaluates medications for COVID-19.
The context I'll speak from otherwise is more specific to COVID-19.
As we know, it has spread rapidly over the last four months to many countries around the world. The infection rate is unknown but estimated at over three million people, causing 200,000 deaths, and well over 50,000 cases in Canada with approximately 3,000 deaths. Despite this most commonly causing mild illness, the temporal concentration of infections among susceptible populations has, at times, overwhelmed seemingly robust health care systems and their capacities, specifically too few intensive care beds and ventilators for patients and too little personal protective equipment for health care workers. That's been seen prominently in other jurisdictions, and we have been worried about it in Canada. We have prepared for it, but have been just on the precipice.
Probably people are very familiar with this by now through their own knowledge or reading, this being a very common topic in the lay press. It typically presents as a mild illness, respiratory in nature, but can progress to cause severe pneumonia, the need for oxygen, administration of mechanical ventilation and on rare occasions sometimes beyond that, we need circulation of the blood outside the body to provide oxygen and carbon dioxide removal and some assistance for the heart and lungs with dialysis and pump function. These patients can get very ill. Therefore, care in a hospital ICU is one of the direct elements of this outbreak, more so than others we have experienced, by the numbers of patients who have been infected and presented at hospitals.
In many of the publications to date, the mortality rates among those requiring intensive care has been shockingly high for me, as someone who treats patients in an ICU all the time.
On the ground, we would benefit from a greater pan-Canadian collaboration and better public health knowledge of existing resources and gaps—for instance, how many ICU beds and ventilators exist in hospitals and regions—and from a stronger, better coordinated structure for clinical research and quality improvement to characterize, to learn and to quickly improve care delivery for an otherwise unknown illness.
These shortcomings are understandably more apparent in the context of COVID-19, but they exist in usual times as well.
The 13 provincial and territorial health care systems have a lot in common but also differ in ways that should enable more constant cross-learning, and we don't always share insights from those natural experiments in health care delivery at the federal, provincial and territorial governments. We've not really created, I would say, an adequate pan-Canadian machinery to support a more systematic innovation and evaluation that would create some more nimble systems that promote higher-quality care in the context of an outbreak like this.
I'm going to speak just a bit about the clinical treatments and knowledge gaps that exist. As of today, there are still, I would say, no proven effective medical treatments against COVID-19. There are a number of pre-existing antiviral medications, anti-inflammatory medications and immune modulating drugs that are under investigation. Treatments with plasma from recovered patients, anticipating a high concentration of antibodies to COVID-19, are being investigated. Monoclonal antibodies manufactured and directed against specific aspects of the virus are under development. I think Canadian-led science in this field has been very impressive in the past, particularly so for other viruses such as Ebola.
Our best treatment options to date remain the best supportive care, including oxygen, mechanical ventilation and organ support as needed. We have knowledge gaps in the ideal ways to do these things, including how to move from oxygen supplementation to nasal prongs to masks to mechanical ventilation, and whether certain forms of our therapies may aerosolize the virus and place health care workers at increased risk. That's been a prominent concern for us in hospitals when treating patients and being part of that risk circle. In addition to medication trials, I would say that we should study the safety and effectiveness of those elements of supportive care.
So far, there have been many clinical trials, frequently examining a single treatment and typically enrolling too few patients to convincingly determine whether a treatment is effective or not, and they have been concluded oftentimes without necessarily helping the next generation of patients. Clinical treatments and research performed in one jurisdiction with one treatment are usually inconclusive. This is another call for mechanisms for collaborative pan-Canadian and international initiatives that draw upon more durable research infrastructure to examine treatments in parallel with one another and to reach a conclusion on one medication and not have to stop a single treatment trial before moving on to the next evaluation, which is typical of many of the ways that we fund and undertake trials.
One of the early and valid concerns of the pandemic, I think, has been the risk of a sustained situation of overwhelmed hospitals and ICUs with too few ventilators and an excess of preventable deaths. This has occurred in many developed health care systems, including most recently throughout many parts of the U.S. We've come very close to this possibility—I think probably really for the first time in our modern history—of explicitly planning on how to deny care to those in need because of a lack of commonly available resources.
While social distancing has flattened the curve of infections, the frail, vulnerable and aged Canadians living in long-term care homes who cannot partake in social distancing have been at continued high risk of contracting the illness and dying once COVID has taken hold. This has been recognized for a long time, and I think it's an important element of this outbreak, which is much more prominent and visible to the population and is one that we should not lose sight of as we go through it.
Similarly, I would say that health care workers in long-term care facilities have not been adequately prepared and supported. This is something that we can do better in the future.
I wanted to comment on other jurisdictions and what we might learn from others' examples. While many highly resourced countries have been pushed beyond their existing capacity by this pandemic, some have shown a much greater ability to respond quickly and to learn from the experience.
I want to highlight a particular example in the United Kingdom, which has a similar burden of infection by population as the U.S. does, but they have done very well with responding with respect to research and a learning health care system, and I think we might draw on some lessons there.
It's underpinned by a couple of decades of political commitment to medical research with a goal of driving value into the system, improving care through innovation, and evaluating that innovation and adopting it when appropriate.
The U.K., at one-fifth the size of the U.S. and about one-twentieth the size of China, has been the first to develop and take a vaccine for COVID into clinical trials, and at the clinical front lines it's leading the world with a longitudinally supported research network in NHS hospitals across lots of specialty areas. This is something that in my own field of critical care we've seen for a number of years, and we are envious of their ability to support longitudinal research in a durable way through funding from their national funder and then to the coalface at NHS hospitals.
I'm also thinking of the millions of Canadians who make sacrifices every day to help fight COVID-19. We're all facing extreme uncertainty, but we're showing a great deal of strength and resilience.
The challenges facing our world—in human health and disease, climate change and food security—do not involve inanimate objects but the living world and living systems, the world of biosciences. At the heart of these living systems lies DNA, the blueprint of life. DNA is the basis of the science of genomics. At Genome Canada, we believe genomics, responsibly applied, will change the world for the better. That is especially true now as Canadians are in the grip of a terrible biologic pandemic.
Today I will begin with a brief description of genomics and underscore how it is driving immense advances in biosciences. Then I will provide an overview of how genomics is helping us understand and address the current outbreak. Finally, I will introduce you to CanCOGeN, a new national genomics network launched to coordinate and amplify Canada's efforts.
Today Canada is a world leader in genomic research and the knowledge coming out of genomics is transforming our world for the better, but how did we get here?
Genomics is, at its core, the study of DNA, of genes, and how those genes interact with each other and the environment. It's about reading the blueprint of life and using that knowledge to understand how things work, or in the case of infectious disease, don't work.
Genomics is about data—the generation of molecular data about our health, our diseases, our food, our environment—and then using that data to improve our health, support the environment and improve our standard of living. Genomics really came to prominence during the human genome project completed in 2003. That international effort took 13 years and about $1 billion to complete, the equivalent of a biological moon landing.
Since then, we've gained powerful knowledge, technologies and tools, including the ability to read and interpret an organism's DNA, its genome. We can now sequence a human genome practically overnight and for a few thousand dollars, which we are increasingly doing, as genomics begins to find its way into our clinics, our public health labs, our companies and our research institutes. Genomics is producing massive datasets, which, through the application of AI and other tools, are opening our eyes to new understandings, innovative products and groundbreaking therapies.
Canada has some of the world's best researchers working across many sectors from health to agriculture, forestry to energy. They are world leaders in data production and analysis, genome sequencing, gene editing, synthetic biology, novel diagnostics and more.
I am happy to do it. Sorry about that.
Why are we able to do this? It's because since 2000, the Government of Canada has made forward-looking investments to build Canadian genomics excellence through Genome Canada.
I'll say a few words about who we are. Genome Canada is a unique, collaborative national model that has leveraged over $1.5 billion in strategic federal support into 3.6 billion dollars' worth of research through partnerships with provincial governments, industry and other partners. Our federated network of six regional Genome Centres, from Genome B.C. to Genome Atlantic, ensures that Canada's genomic enterprise has national breadth and regional depth.
Moreover, our partnerships with industry, especially small and medium-sized enterprises, and other end-users in the public and not-for-profit sectors ensure that genomics research results have real-world applications. For example, we've helped create 82 start-ups and promoted the growth of 230 other companies. Canadian genomics patents are second worldwide after only the U.S. We help bring research to life.
Let me move to our role in health care and the mandate of this committee. With an aging population and increasing chronic disease rates, the imperative to bring genomic innovations to Canada's health care systems is clear.
Through Genome Canada investments in human health, genomics research has already led to saving lives and improving health outcomes and disease management for patients touched by cancer, heart disease, autism, epilepsy and rare diseases. These investments are at the intersection of genomics and health care and are leading the shift from a disease-oriented system to one that is—
These investments at the intersection of genomics and health care are leading the shift from a disease-oriented system to one that is more precise, personalized, predictive and preventative. Genome Canada has been laying the foundation for its implementation in clinics across Canada through All for One, Canada's precision health partnership. This strong health genomics foundation has been the engine driving our rapid response to COVID-19 today.
In mid-December, scientists identified and sequenced the genome of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, in just 10 days. Scientists around the world, including Canadians, have since been working around the clock to understand what that genome tells us, how it interacts with people and who may be most at risk. They've started to use the viral genome and the mutations it accumulates like a series of fingerprints, so we're able to track the virus's spread and transmission patterns within communities and around the world.
Genomics can also help us understand why some people get very sick while others do not, and identify risks of disease severity and potential health outcomes. This is where CanCOGeN comes in. Announced by the Prime Minister on April 23, CanCOGeN is part of a new national medical and research strategy to combat COVID-19. It is a grassroots effort, led by Genome Canada but driven by Canadian scientists, public health labs and genomics institutions to use genomics to unlock understanding and help shape effective policy.
With the $40 million in federal support announced last week, the network will scale up sequencing of up to 10,000 patients and 150,000 viral genomes from individuals who have tested positive for the virus in order to generate large-scale datasets. CanCOGeN's members include the National Microbiology Lab and provincial public health labs, major genome sequencing centres through CEGn, hospitals, universities, the private sector and the six regional genome centres.
The network will be a coordinated and decentralized model, working with standard protocols for sample collection, data sharing and data analysis across provinces. Results will be shared with public health leaders and deposited in global databases. CanCOGeN will connect with national genomics initiatives around the world, the U.K., the U.S. and elsewhere. It will also align with Canada's national medical and research strategy on COVID-19, including the new Canada immunity task force and national serology study.
The data we collect today will help shape and inform public health policies, including test and trace plans, and will be available to researchers for years to come, enabling studies for future novel viruses to quickly determine how they spread and how to stop them. We are building a sustainable national genomics infrastructure to combat both the current pandemic and the next one.
Beyond the immediate health crisis, we need to think about Canada's future recovery. We know that Canada is not in this fight alone. Countries everywhere have implemented unprecedented health control measures, and how and when we will fully recover economically, socially and psychologically is still unknown. Genomics will make crucial contributions to Canada's economic and social recovery across all regions of the country and key sectors like agriculture, national resource management, advanced manufacturing and public health. It's clear there will be an imperative to develop industrial strategy with an eye to ensuring greater national self-sufficiency, and having made-in-Canada solutions based on genomics and the biosciences will be essential.
This experience has shown us that while we can't predict precisely where science will be needed, it is certain that scientific capacity is essential in a crisis like this, an important lesson we must remember as we emerge from this crisis.
I'll be happy to discuss these ideas further in the question and answer period.
Good afternoon, everyone.
I would like to thank you on behalf of the members of the Canadian Society for Molecular Biosciences for inviting me to speak before this committee. Many of our members have been at the forefront of the response to COVID-19, and we welcome the opportunity to speak to our experience.
Thank you for the invitation to appear before the committee today to speak about Canada's response to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Our members have been at the forefront of the response. We welcome the opportunity to speak about our experience this afternoon.
I am a molecular biologist and biochemist by training. I am also a professor at the Université de Montréal and an adjunct professor at McGill University. I have a lab with graduate students, post-docs, and so on. I work on the biology of blood cells and leukemia and lymphoma. I was also president of my own institution and scientific director for over a decade, so I have experience in science administration.
I'm also president of the Canadian Society for Molecular Biosciences. Again, I'm honoured to be here on behalf of our members. The society was founded in 1957, and recruits researchers and professors, mostly from university and research centres involved in biochemistry, cell biology, molecular biology and genetics. We are the group that does the investigator-driven research in the labs all over the country. This laboratory work is mostly basic and fundamental research that generates the knowledge that fuels innovation and trains the next generation of scientists.
We have a four-part mission. We want to promote biomolecular sciences. We would like to foster our younger colleagues, the trainees, the graduate students and the early career researchers. We organize scientific meetings with international visibility and give younger scientists the opportunity to speak and to make their science known. We support the implementation of EDI principles—equity, diversity and inclusion—in academic institutions. We have a strong willingness to do advocacy for science and research towards the federal government. Of course, we support a strong scientific and health research community in Canada and would like to ensure that Canada remains a world leader in innovation and scientific discoveries.
Most of what we know about viruses—how a virus enters the cells, docks into the cells, goes into the cells and replicates all the enzymes and proteins that play into the mechanisms—comes from basic research and fundamental research over many, many years. I have done a Ph.D. thesis on the—
This is by the grace of my daughter Claudia, who has all the equipment needed.
I was saying that most of what we know about viruses—how the virus enters the cell, how it replicates and what the known effects and the known responses are—comes from basic and fundamental research.
With fundamental and basic research, we have all the tools in hand for treatment and for innovative new drugs. We can confront the issues that we face today and that our children will face in the future. We feel strongly that without the investments that have been made by governments, both provincial and federal, to support the scientific community, Canada would have fared far worse in the face of this pandemic.
We would also like to acknowledge the strong and coordinated response of the Canadian government and granting agencies to combat COVID-19. We appreciate the fact that this response has been led by science and the scientific insight provided by the best and brightest scientists from across the country. We also appreciate that the communication has been of high quality in accordance with the difficult circumstances. It's based on the best possible available scientific data. This is also a consequence of science long being identified as a priority for the health and security of Canadians. We will uphold this in the days that come during the pandemic.
We also appreciate the ongoing communications from governments. Here I speak of the Quebec government and the federal government, including Canada's chief public health officer. They have all been guided by science. We acknowledge that this is a difficult task and that adjustments have been made, since situations sometimes change from day to day.
Many of our members have engaged in promising research and have been at the forefront of efforts to address this pandemic. I can give an example from my own institution. Within weeks, we were able to set up a testing lab with our RNA biology experts and with the PCR machines that are in the institute and the level 2 containment facility we have. We are now helping the local hospitals do clinical trials. We will also set up an antibody lab and will soon have a level 3 containment lab, which we already had, but it had to be recertified by Health Canada to do antiviral research with live human viruses.
The fact that we were able to react quickly is due to the government-financed infrastructure of personnel and equipment for fundamental science, such as biochemistry, genetics and so on. I would like to underline that without this, we would not have been able to react so quickly.
The positive aspect, if there is anything positive to say about COVID-19, is how quickly researchers in universities have come together to collaborate and to respond to the new CIHR funding line that has been offered. I can give many examples. Colleagues of mine from McGill University are collaborating with people from Alberta and people from Université Laval with others across the country. It brings scientists together like nothing before. It's really nice to see.
On the other hand, whereas many in the scientific community were preparing for the CIHR spring competition, we have noticed that CIHR has cancelled that competition. When we were ready to evaluate the already-submitted grants, I was on a panel and was notified that the spring competition had been cancelled. As a society, our members and my colleagues are very worried that this will do damage to early career researchers because they have put in their first grant application and are worried about how to finance their research. It is to be noted that Canada is the only country to have a major national financing agency cancel its competitions for funding health research. We worry that this is at the expense of other health research that will still be necessary after the pandemic is over. Cancer research and cardiovascular and diabetes research and many other problems need attention.
We appreciate the quick response of the CIHR, but we would like to underline that we need to maintain support for health research at the same level or an even higher level after the COVID-19 pandemic is over.
As I said, the excellent infrastructure that we have in Canada and the funding have enabled us to respond quickly. This is very paradigmatic.
However, even before the pandemic, there were warning signs that Canada's commitment to its researchers was starting to slip behind that of other countries, and I just want to give a few numbers here.
Canada is only spending 1.5% of its GDP on research and development, whereas the OECD average is around 2.4%. We as a society pointed that out in meetings with members of Parliament and other persons on the Hill early this year. We are no longer in the top 20 countries, and we are lagging behind countries such as the Czech Republic and Slovenia in terms of total research intensity.
Our first recommendation—and I would like to give three recommendations to the Canadian government or to this committee—is that the government enact policies and programs to get our funding on health and research up to the OECD average of 2.4% of the GDP.
We also recognize that in budget 2018 the Canadian government made significant investments in research, following the recommendations of a report of a panel that the government itself established, the fundamental science review, and this was very welcome. However, for fundamental research, I would like to cite one number. It only put into place 60% of what was recommended by the panel and the fundamental science review, putting in place $708 million over four years in budget 2018, while the fundamental science review panel recommended $1.2 billion over four years.
Our second recommendation would be to follow the guidelines of this panel—the Naylor report or the Naylor panel, the fundamental science review—and install $500 million over the next four years to maintain health research at a highly competitive level to keep Canada ready for health challenges that certainly may come.
Finally, our third recommendation is that we believe it is essential to collect data on a wide range of demographics. We have already seen that the pandemic plays out differently in different areas of Canada. We need to ensure that we collect information and data on how different demographics across the country are experiencing the pandemic differently, both to inform our response and other global health crises to come. The data should be collected through a multidisciplinary approach enlisting our social scientists, bioethicists and more to ensure that we gather the breadth of our research, that we quite appropriately analyze how Canadians were affected by the pandemic and how we were effective in our response.
Thank you very much for this invitation. Again, I'd be happy to answer your questions and I look forward to them.
Good afternoon. Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you very much to the committee for giving us the opportunity to address the committee this afternoon.
My name is Volker Gerdts. I'm the CEO and director of VIDO-InterVac. I'm joined by Dr. Paul Hodgson, who is our director of business development. Both of us have been with the organization for more than 20 years, and personally, I'm still a researcher. I still run a lab and I'm also a professor here in Saskatoon at the University of Saskatchewan, at the local veterinary college.
This afternoon we were invited to talk to you about the ongoing efforts here in Saskatoon at the University of Saskatchewan, so I thought I would start by quickly giving you an introduction to VIDO-InterVac, which stands for the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization - International Vaccine Centre, a very long name. It's one of Canada's largest research organizations and is focused on infectious disease research and vaccine development.
We are truly a national facility, collaborating with researchers all across the country. Our InterVac facility, our high-containment lab, which I'll speak about in a second, is really designed to facilitate research in Canada by bringing in collaborators from all across the country to use our facilities and take advantage of the unique infrastructure that we have here.
VIDO-InterVac is a global leader in infectious disease research. We have more than 45 years of experience working in both the animal and human health sectors. We have developed 10 vaccines over the years, six of which were world firsts, so that really speaks to the type of research that's going on here. We have quite a bit of experience working with coronaviruses as we develop vaccines in animals, as well as currently also working on MERS, another coronavirus.
I'll give you an example. Just a few years ago, Canada was facing a coronavirus in pigs that was very similar to what we're seeing now. We responded to it as quickly as we're doing now. We made a vaccine in 18 months, and the vaccine for pigs is being licensed now to commercial producers.
Our research here at VIDO-InterVac is really addressing the threat of emerging diseases. We're one of the few labs in Canada right now that is equipped and has the infrastructure available to work on these emerging diseases, including both emerging human diseases such as the Zika virus, the new COVID-19, MERS or others, and animal health threats such as African swine fever, a very important disease that is currently threatening the Canadian pork industry. That is also being researched here at VIDO-InterVac.
To speak directly about our activities on COVID-19, we started our work immediately when the World Health Organization recognized on January 9, I think it was, that there was a new virus in China, a potential new problem. The same afternoon, we decided that we would start working on a vaccine for it. As soon as the sequence for the virus became available, we designed our vaccine and immediately started to work on it.
I also reached out to Dr. Matt Gilmour, who is the director general of the National Microbiology Lab in Winnipeg, to ask whether there was anything that we needed to do together, anything that VIDO could help him with. I'm proud to say that in collaboration with our colleagues at Sunnybrook and in Winnipeg, VIDO-InterVac was the first lab in the country to isolate the virus from a patient sample. We were the first lab in Canada to have an animal model developed, using ferrets for this. Now we have a second model in hamsters, and we're even working on a third model in cats. We are currently the first lab in Canada to have its own vaccine, which we started to develop right in January, and it is already in animal testing.
We call that the proof of concept stage. We already have animals vaccinated with our vaccine. Next week, these animals will be challenged with the virus and we will see whether the vaccine actually works.
All of that work is happening in our InterVac facility, the International Vaccine Centre. It's one of Canada's and the world's largest high-containment facilities, which speaks to the foresight that the government had several years ago in building a facility that allows us to address emerging diseases when they arise. We can house in there hundreds, if not thousands, of animals right now for our COVID-19 research, and we can host researchers from all around the world to perform this research. For example, Dr. Alyson Kelvin and her group from Dalhousie University are currently running a ferret trial here at VIDO-InterVac. There is a lot of interaction and research going on in collaboration with others right now.
In fact, we now have more than 100 requests from partners all around the world, including big organizations like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, as well as large industry and academic collaborators that want to use these animal models to look at antivirals and drugs and to even test other vaccines. In response, we have ramped up our capacity, and essentially our whole organization is now focused on COVID-19 research. We're using all the infrastructure that we have available right now to run as many studies as we can in parallel.
That initiative was recognized by the government, and we received generous support to do some of this work, which I'd like to acknowledge. You all may have seen the speaking directly about the $23 million for VIDO-InterVac to accelerate our vaccine development. That money will help us to take our vaccine directly into clinical trials.
The prototype of the vaccine has been manufactured already. Over the summer we will do the necessary safety testing—it is very important that we not take any shortcuts there—and we're looking forward to starting our clinical trials in the fall.
There was also an announcement of $12 million for our manufacturing facility. We have been working on this for a few years. Establishing a manufacturing facility right here at VIDO-InterVac in Saskatoon would allow us to essentially take prototype vaccines like the ones we have right now into clinical development to fast-track the process and make it more effective. With the $12 million, we will be able to do this. We're establishing a GMP manufacturing facility right here in Saskatoon, and that will enable us to not only develop or manufacture prototype vaccines for clinical testing, but also, in the long term, manufacture vaccines like the COVID-19 vaccine.
There was also funding from CFI to operate our InterVac facility, and we gratefully acknowledge that it was great support for us. It helps us to operate the facility and has helped us ramp up our research capacity for this work.
It is also important to mention that the Province of Saskatchewan, through Innovation Saskatchewan, provided $4.2 million to help us in our COVID-19 research.
Where are we right now? We're doing a lot of studies currently that address antivirals, as you heard earlier. Other producers and other manufacturers in the world have a lot of promising candidates. There are also some new compounds that hold great promise. We're testing them in our animal models and are offering that testing service to everybody around the world, including the World Health Organization. We're participating in three expert groups with the World Health Organization, and we were part of the expert meeting in Geneva that was organized in February. A lot of our contract requests come from international partners that are asking us to help with their antivirals and therapeutics.
On our own vaccine, as I mentioned, the safety testing will continue over the summer, and we will be able to do the clinical testing early in the fall. One of the highest priorities for us—and that's why I'm saying it again—is to make sure that this vaccine will be available to Canadians. It's a Canadian effort. We have partners in Canada involved in Montreal and we have collaborators from all across the country. The clinical testing will be done at Dalhousie. This is truly a Canadian effort, and the goal is to make sure that this vaccine will be available to Canadians all across the country.
We were asked to quickly address what vaccines are and the differences in these different vaccines.
The technology we are using is called a subunit vaccine, so only a piece of the virus is being used. We're using one of the structures, one of the proteins the virus has.
Other vaccines that are currently being developed globally use the whole virus. That's what we call an inactivated virus. We're just using the viral genome, which in this case will be RNA, although we can also have DNA vaccines.
Last, you may have heard about vectored vaccines. With these, we're using another virus, a viral vector, to deliver just a part of the genome of the virus as a vaccine vector.
Finally, I want to mention our efforts in helping our local communities.
Two weeks ago, we reached an agreement with the Saskatchewan Health Authority. We are using our facility to sterilize and decontaminate N95 masks and other protective equipment. We had this process approved by Health Canada. These masks are now being collected in the hospitals and are being shipped here to VIDO-InterVac, where we now essentially decontaminate them with vaporized hydrogen peroxide, or VHP, which we use here routinely for our processes. We can now decontaminate thousands of masks every week and ship them back to the hospitals to be reused.
My take-home message or summary is that at VIDO-InterVac, we're proud to be part of the national emergency response. We're proud to be part of Canada's response to this COVID-19 outbreak. As an organization, we are very uniquely positioned to rapidly respond to these emerging diseases. We very much acknowledge and are thankful for the support from the federal government as well as the provincial government. While this is helping us a lot in our efforts, and there's a lot of money available now, I think the real message is that we will continue to see these emerging disease outbreaks in the future, so it's very, very important for a country like ours to provide long-term support to organizations like ours, which are uniquely positioned to quickly address these challenges when they come.
Thank you very much.