February 9, 2021
The world held its breath collectively and saw a small spark of hope when Pfizer and BioNTech announced their vaccine was ready to be distributed amid a second wave of COVID-19. What most people are unaware of is that a B.C. company had a critical role in creating this spark of hope. Acuitas, a Vancouver-based company, developed the technology that allows the vaccine’s messenger RNA (mRNA) to work.
The mRNA tells the body to create a protein that exists on the surface of the COVID-19 virus, which teaches our immune system that it is foreign and should be fought against. However, mRNA cannot enter cells without assistance, and our body can break down mRNA before it reaches its destination. That is where Acutias’ lipid nanoparticle technology comes in. It works as a transportation vehicle for the mRNA so it can reach the cells unharmed.
The success of the nanoparticle technology showcases how academic roots and research can be combined to flourish into a commercial success. Research on nanomedicine in our province began at the University of British Columbia, one of the 50 research centres dedicated to life sciences. These centres are part of a collaborative research hub of companies, organizations, hospitals and universities. British Columbia has world-class scientists supported by one of the best health care systems in the world.
Government support for the sector includes the federal Canada Foundation for Innovation and the provincial BC Knowledge Development Fund. These two entities have awarded over $49 million since 2017 in support of infrastructure for life science research.
The National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program is Canada’s leading innovation assistance program helping small and medium-sized businesses build innovation capacity and take ideas to market through financial assistance, advisory services, and connections to business and R&D expertise in Canada.
LifeSciences BC (LSBC) is a not-for-profit industry association that facilitates investment and economic development from biopharmaceuticals to digital health and medical devices. It represents the life science community of British Columbia and supports local, national and international partnerships. In November 2020, LSBC hosted a virtual Life Sciences Summit, an event to connect emerging biotech companies and academic innovators with capital and strategic partners.
With a fantastic network supporting collaboration among academia, the private sector and the government, British Columbia’s life sciences sector offers tremendous opportunities for partnerships and growth. This sector is a significant contributor to B.C.’s economy, with technological innovations that showcases B.C.’s world-class capabilities. Follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn for the latest news in the life sciences sector.
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