Edmonton biotechnology company hopeful its COVID-19 vaccine will continue along approval process


An Edmonton biotechnology company is waiting to start the next phase of its COVID-19 vaccine approval after the federal government announced tens of millions of dollars to support vaccine production.

Entos Pharmaceuticals CEO Dr. John Lewis said his company is currently working on two DNA vaccines. Entos has sent one of those vaccines to a lab in Ottawa where it will, in turn, be sent to Halifax, to start Phase 1 of the approval process for public use.

“We decided to select DNA because DNA is much more stable. Our DNA formulations are stable in the refrigerator for a year or at room temperature for a month,” said Lewis.

Lewis said his company had requested $49 million for its vaccine development from the federal government last March. In August, it received $5 million from the National Research Council of Canada Industiral Research Assistance Program to help get its vaccine to Phase 1. It also received $4.2 million from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research rapid research funding competition.

“I don’t think it’s tough to get things moving quicker. I think it requires decisive investment. We saw other countries making decisive investments early on multiple candidates,” said Lewis. “We did not see that in Canada. We saw a huge lag in between the decision making for funding and then relatively meagre funding for most of the candidates.”

Vaccine production has become a big topic as the world races to produce two approved vaccines, one from Moderna and one from Pfizer. Canada currently does not have the capacity to produce either one within the country, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been criticized by critics for not being more pro-active in securing more vaccines from international partners.

Trudeau announced at the beginning of February his government would be investing tens of millions of dollars to support vaccine and therapeutic medicine in Vancouver and Montreal.

As of Monday morning, 1,447,600 doses of vaccine had been administered in Canada.

John Power, a spokesperson for Minister of Science, innovation and Technology François-Philippe Champagne, said the government’s investment decisions are being informed by expert advice from its vaccine and therapeutics task forces and biomanufacturing subcommittee. He said the government has invested over half a billion dollars to ensure Canada can produce safe vaccines and therapies.

“Our government is working to strengthen Canada’s biomanufacturing sector all while aggressively pursuing the purchase and development of vaccines, treatments and related supplies to protect Canadians from COVID-19,” said Power in an email. “We continue to follow Entos’ progress closely and are committed to working with the company to provide support on further milestones.”