The three-story International Vaccine Centre (InterVac) at the University of Saskatchewan is one of the largest vaccine research centers in the world and the largest in North America. It is connected by a walkway to the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization (VIDO) laboratory building in a cluster of life sciences R&D facilities at the University. The facilities operate together as VIDO-InterVac, one of only a few BSL-3 facilities in the world that can accommodate disease and vaccine research involving animals as large as cows.
Approximately every three years, the world is faced with a new disease of global impact. Diseases that have recently emerged, such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV), H7N9 influenza, and the Schmallenberg virus in Germany’s cattle, represent considerable social and economic threats. InterVac supports development of vaccines for new and re-emerging infectious diseases and facilitates international collaborations to resist global pandemics.
The building is separated into two wings: a training and research wing with BSL-2 (CL2 in Canada) and BSL-3 (CL3) containment laboratories, and an animal wing with BSL-3 Ag (AP3/CL3-Ag) containment suites and multispecies accommodation. It has 18 animal holding suites for species of almost any size, from pigs, horses, and cattle to mice and birds.
The facility houses biochemistry, bacteriology, immunology, and virology laboratories, as well as a large animal standing surgery suite, all in BSL-3 Ag containment. The modular design of the laboratories facilitates flexibility, while the open layout encourages collaboration. The core laboratories house state-of-the-art laboratory equipment and associated support spaces. The clinical pathology lab houses a Leica TCS SP8 confocal microscope that provides high-speed scanning of live or fixed cells. It has the ability to optically “slice” through cells, resulting in high-resolution fluorescent images. InterVac’s cell sorting room is equipped with a Beckman Coulter CyAn ADP flow cytometer and MoFlo™ XDP cell sorter, both housed in dedicated Class II A2 biosafety cabinets for added aerosol containment.
One of the small animal isolation rooms houses a Perkin Elmer IVIS SpectrumCT for optical imaging of live animals. The Aerobiology Laboratory houses a Class III biosafety cabinet in line with a Class II biosafety cabinet and a Madison exposure chamber. This cabinet line allows for aerosol exposure studies in rodents under primary containment for handling aerosolized risk group 3 pathogens.
VIDO-InterVac researchers are working on developing vaccines and treatments for infectious human diseases such as tuberculosis, hepatitis C, West Nile virus, HIV/AIDS, SARS, and avian influenza H5N1, as well as large animal diseases, such as bacterial and viral infections, including Mycobacterium, Mycoplasma, Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome (PRRS), and Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea (PED).
The VIDO-InterVac research focuses on viral pathogenesis and vaccine development, immune modulation, bacterial vaccine development, neonatal immunization, emerging infectious diseases and microbial virulence, vectored vaccines, and pathogenomics. Current VIDO-InterVac developments involve E. coli O157:H7, prion diseases, listeriosis, needle-free vaccines, emerging and re-emerging diseases, and influenza in swine and poultry.