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U of S VIDO-InterVac helping fight Zika virus

March 10, 2017

The Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization-International Vaccine Centre (VIDO-InterVac) at the University of Saskatchewan (U of S)—the first place in the world to develop a swine model for the study of Zika virus infection—has secured $700,000 for research using the new animal model to investigate how the virus causes disease and to test new drugs and vaccines for prevention.

Support for the three-year research project will be provided by Innovation Saskatchewan, Genome Prairie, through Genome Canada’s emerging issues program, the Public Health Agency of Canada, and VIDO-InterVac.

The Zika virus outbreak in the Americas has been linked to microcephaly (incomplete brain development) in babies born to infected mothers. The virus, which is primarily spread by mosquitos, can also be sexually transmitted. Currently there is no vaccine or therapy available to combat the infection.

“Saskatchewan has always been a leader in biomedical and health sciences, and our government is pleased to invest in research and development in these fields,” Saskatchewan Minister Responsible for Innovation Jeremy Harrison said. “VIDO-InterVac has made a significant advance in developing an animal model to study the Zika virus, and our government support will help ensure the province’s continued leadership in this field.”

“VIDO-InterVac is at the forefront of tackling disease at the human-animal interface, including the development of new animal models,” said VIDO-InterVac Director Andrew Potter. “Developing alternative animal models for emerging pathogens such as Zika virus is a crucial first step in understanding the disease and bringing new vaccines and therapies to market.”

Preliminary results from the project are expected within two years.

“Genomics is a key tool in combatting the Zika virus,” said Genome Canada President and CEO Marc LePage. “Genome Canada is proud to support this important project that will use genomics to advance our understanding of the virus’ effects in the developing brain.”

The project is being conducted in VIDO-InterVac’s state-of-the-art containment facilities.

“This project will attract more global teams working on the Zika virus, and other important pathogens to use the world-class VIDO-InterVac facility,” said Genome Prairie President and CEO Reno Pontarollo.

The research is being led by Dr. Uladzimir Karniychuk, a research scientist and veterinarian who joined VIDO-InterVac in early 2016.


Innovation Saskatchewan:

Innovation Saskatchewan (IS) is a provincial government agency that works to advance the Government of Saskatchewan’s innovation agenda—developing an environment in the province that encourages and rewards innovation. IS provides recommendation and advice on research and development, science and technology, and works collaboratively with industry and stakeholders to encourage the commercialization of technology and increased competitiveness. For more information, visit:


A research organization of the University of Saskatchewan, VIDO-InterVac has over four decades of experience working with public and private partners to research and protect humans and animals from infectious disease. With more than 150 scientific personnel, the organization operates in an over $200 million state-of-the-art containment Level 2 and 3 facility using an ISO 9001:2015 certified management system. VIDO-InterVac receives financial support from a variety of sources including the Government of Canada, Government of Saskatchewan, foundations, producer groups, and industry. For more information, visit:


Genome Canada:
Genome Canada is a not-for-profit organization that aims to harness the transformative power of genomics for the benefit of all Canadians. We connect ideas and people across public and private sectors to find new uses for genomics, invest in large-scale science and technology to fuel innovation and translate discoveries into solutions across key sectors of national importance, including health, agriculture, forestry, fisheries & aquaculture, energy, mining and the environment. For more information, visit

Genome Prairie:
Genome Prairie, a non-profit organization with offices in Winnipeg and Saskatoon, aligns partners and resources to develop and manage genomics and bioscience research projects addressing key regional priorities including agriculture, agri-food, human health, the environment, energy and mining. These efforts are playing a central role in building the region’s reputation as a location of choice for innovation and commercialization. For more information, visit

Public Health Agency of Canada:
The Public Health Agency of Canada was created to deliver on the Government of Canada’s commitment to help protect the health and safety of all Canadians. Its activities focus on preventing chronic diseases, like cancer and heart disease, preventing injuries and responding to public health emergencies and infectious disease outbreaks. For more information, visit:


For more information, contact:

Trenna Brusky
Marketing Coordinator
University of Saskatchewan

Jennifer Thoma
Media Relations Specialist
University of Saskatchewan

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