Manitoba’s interest in a COVID-19 vaccine developed by a Calgary-based company has not waned, despite the developer’s threat to move its operations overseas.

Brad Sorenson, CEO of Providence Therapeutics, said Wednesday his office was in “constant communication” – at least twice a week – with officials in Manitoba, the only Canadian jurisdiction to have committed to purchase their vaccine until. here.

“If we had the same level of federal support that we get in Manitoba, it would be a much different conversation,” Sorenson said.

He was speaking on Wednesday, after Providence reported in a press release that their Phase 1 human trial showed their vaccine to be at least as effective as other mRNA vaccines, without serious side effects.

The status of Providence’s agreement with Manitoba has been called into question after Sorenson said last month his company would pull out of Canada and take its product elsewhere.

When asked if Manitoba’s preliminary deal with Providence was affected, Premier Brian Pallister said last week that no formal contract had been signed, but “we have other irons in the fire” to buy national vaccines.

Barriers for the Canadian vaccine developer

The PM has been a staunch supporter of Providence since February, when critics and opposition parties accused Pallister of betting on an untested and underfunded company. Providence’s vaccine is not expected to be eligible for federal approval until 2022.

Last month Sorenson said he was fed up with federal and provincial governments since his calls for more substantial federal support went unanswered.

“I’m moving on, that’s where I am now. I bowed down to the altar of the government in Canada for a year and got nothing for it. I’m sick of begging and to plead, ”he said. told CBC News last month.

In an interview on Wednesday, Sorenson said a relocation of Providence’s operations was not certain, “but we are definitely looking at options.”

Regardless of the company’s headquarters, the vaccine would still be made in Canada, he said. Emergent Biosolutions has a facility in Winnipeg that is expected to manufacture the vaccine.

The Manitoba government agreed in February to pay Providence $ 36 million for its vaccine. The parties have agreed to a non-refundable upfront payment of $ 7.2 million, but Sorenson said no money will be exchanged until a formal contract is signed.

He wants to wait until Providence has more certainty as to its operations.

“Under no circumstances will I be making a deal with Manitoba, the only government in Canada that has really supported and put us at a disadvantage. It won’t happen,” Sorenson said.

A drug vial is shown in this undated image provided by Providence Therapeutics. The company said its Phase 1 trial was successful and that it still hopes Ottawa will provide financial support. (Providence Therapeutics / The Canadian Press)

He continually sought financial assistance from the federal government, including a request for 150 million dollars by an open letter. So far, Ottawa has secured Canada’s entire supply of COVID-19 vaccines internationally.

More recently, Sorenson asked Ottawa for 500 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to be used in a controlled trial for Phase 2 clinical trial of Providence vaccines. He said he received no response after two months of investigations.

Providence will have to travel to another country for her trial if she does not get an answer by Friday, he said.

“We are not going to sit idly by and wait and control our fate. We have a back-up plan.”

A spokesperson for François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, said the federal government had in fact provided Providence with “significant federal support”.

The company received up to $ 10 million earlier this year, the spokesperson said. Providence and other vaccine and therapeutic candidates are also receiving a share of $ 37 million for development, and an additional $ 113 million will be made available for the most promising of these candidates, they added.

Sorenson acknowledged that Canada may have already ordered enough vaccines for 2022, but “it would be unethical for me not to make vaccines that could save lives around the world if I have the ability to. do it “.

Sorenson expects Canadians to need COVID-19 booster doses for at least a few years.

A positive step for Providence is the results of the Phase 1 lead, which showed that the vaccine has “a strong virus neutralizing capacity” compared to other mRNA vaccines, Sorenson said.

It provides for the start of the phase 2 trial in June – in Canada or elsewhere – and a phase 3 trial thereafter.

“I am optimistic, I am really excited to face Pfizer.”


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