Vaccine 'challenge' unit unveiled

- July 13, 2009

The Sanofi Pasteur Vaccine Challenge Unit, a first in Canada, was a key feature in Friday’s official opening of the Canadian Center for Vaccinology at the IWK Health Centre in Halifax.

The challenge unit, which is equipped with 10 in-patient isolation rooms, may accelerate vaccination development, according to Canadian Center for Vaccinology director and Dalhousie professor Dr. Scott Halperin.  

“What the challenge unit allows us to do is to under controlled circumstances immunize individuals with the candidate vaccine and then expose them to the infection and very quickly, within weeks, say, ‘Did it work or didn’t it work?” he says. “This allows a company or a developer of a vaccine to say, ‘Yes, we should proceed aggressively’ or ‘No, let’s stop here, drop back and re-focus and modify to see if we can get things to work better.’ That can cut years off the development.” 

The multidisciplinary Canadian Center for Vaccinology, which houses the challenge unit, is a partnership of Dalhousie, IWK Health Centre and Capital Health with funding from the Canada Foundation for Innovation and provincial government.

“The significance of the centre is that it’s a bringing together of a large number of investigators of a variety of disciplines focused on a single theme of developing vaccines and then evaluating those vaccines and then really looking at how they get into usage, the aspects of health policy,” Dr. Halperin says.

The centre will assist industry in testing and evaluating H1N1 vaccines. At Friday’s opening, Sanofi Pasteur’s Dr. Luis Barreto, Vice President, Immunization Policy and Scientific and Medical Affairs, announced a $1 million contract with the centre for a clinical trial to study Sanofi Pasteur’s whooping cough vaccine.

Dalhousie’s Vice-President Research, Dr. Martha Crago, says the centre has great significance for the region. “This is exactly what I think this region is capable of...It’s a great example of Canadian and international leadership situated right in the middle of Halifax.”


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