Precision NanoSystems receives federal support to build $50 million biomanufacturing facility in Vancouver

Debbie Lawes
February 3, 2021

It may not help with the current pandemic, but the federal government is hoping to be better prepared for the next with a multimillion investment in a new $50.2-milion vaccine manufacturing plant in Vancouver.

Announced February 2, the $24.1 million from Strategic Innovation Fund (SIF) will support a plan by Precision NanoSystems, Inc. (PNI) to establish a 3,700 square metre facility providing end-to-end manufacturing of ribonucleic acid (RNA) lipid nanoparticle vaccines and genetic medicines targeting infectious diseases, rare diseases and cancer.

“PNI’s centre of manufacturing excellence of nanomedicine will be a state-of-the-art facility for the development and manufacture of genetic therapeutics and vaccines,” PNI CEO James Taylor said in a news release.

Related story: NGen joins $10-million effort to bolster manufacturing capacity

for a COVID-19 vaccine

The new facility will have multiple GMP suites with enough manufacturing lines to produce as many as 240 million vaccine doses per year once it’s completed in 2023.

In an interview last fall with Research Money, Nobel Laureate Dr. Michael Houghton stressed the importance of Canada developing a national vaccine manufacturing plan that would see Canada scale-up domestic companies such as PNI.

“Precision NanoSystems has same RNA technology as Moderna and Pfizer and Germany biotech company BioNTech. This is probably going to be the technology of the future for many vaccines so it makes sense to expand Precision NanoSystems’ capabilities so we can respond quicker and more independently when the next pandemic strikes,” said Houghton, an immunology researcher at the University of Alberta.

PNI’s vaccine candidate is one of several that uses messenger RNA, or mRNA, to trigger the immune system to produce protective antibodies without having to inject a weakened or inactivated virus into people.

The SIF investment supports the Government of Canada’s national biomanufacturing strategy to expand domestic production capacity of critical medicines for the prevention and treatment of diseases such as COVID-19. Last October, PNI received a commitment of up to $18.2 million in support from SIF to advance its COVID-19 vaccine candidate to clinical trials.

“Our government is bringing back the vaccine manufacturing capacity that Canadians expect and need,” François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, said in a release.” These investments will help to ensure that Canada has modern, flexible vaccine manufacturing capabilities now and in the future.”

The PNI investment is one of several the Canadian government has made over the past several months to develop domestic biomanufacturing of vaccines and therapeutics. Other actions have included:

  • $175.6 million from SIF to AbCellera (Vancouver) toward its antibody therapy research and the construction of an antibody production facility (May 3, 2020).
  • $126 million for the National Research Council of Canada to build a new Biologics Manufacturing Centre at its Royalmount site in Montreal, capable of producing about two million doses per month. Construction is scheduled for completion in July. (August 31, 2020)
  • Providing $35 million, through Western Economic Diversification Canada, to the University of Saskatchewan's Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization to accelerate development of its COVID-19 vaccine candidate and enhance its vaccine manufacturing facilities. (March 23, 2020)
  • $173 million in Medicago (Quebec City), through SIF, to advance its virus-like particle vaccine candidate and establish a large-scale biomanufacturing facility (October 23, 2020).
  • Up to $5 million in Providence Therapeutics (Calgary) and Northern RNA Inc. (Calgary), through Canada’s Next Generation Manufacturing Supercluster, to expand their operations in Calgary to design and manufacture COVID-19 vaccines and build a pipeline of mRNA vaccines. (January 21, 2021)
  • Signing a memorandum of understanding with Novavax (Gaithersburg, MD) to pursue the production of its COVID‑19 vaccine starting this year at the NRC’s Biologics Manufacturing Centre. (February 2, 2021)


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