Connect with us

Canadian News

How Canadian Prairie City Made an Ebola Vaccine



Toronto, Canada:  An experimental Ebola vaccine that is offering some hope for West Africa was invented in a small Canadian Prairie city and had its roots in the Cold War, the German town of Marburg and a disease scare that panicked Toronto in the 1970s.

The Canadian government said this week that the Ebola vaccine, developed at its National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg, Manitoba, though untested on humans, would be offered to the World Health Organization for use in Africa.

The WHO ruled on Tuesday that it would be ethical, given the extraordinary circumstances of the Ebola outbreak, to give untested treatments to infected patients. Canada is one of only two countries in the world, along with the United States, to have developed an Ebola vaccine.

The Winnipeg lab where the vaccine, called VSV-EBOV, was developed also produced some of the components of the ZMapp treatment given to two American aid workers who were stricken with Ebola.

“Research into Ebola is not something that we’ve done well on globally. If it was going to be done, it wouldn’t be done in the countries most affected by it because they don’t have the research infrastructure,” said Allison McGeer, director of infection control at Toronto’s Mount Sinai hospital.

“Canada has a history in these things. Don’t forget Connaught Laboratories,” she said, referring to a Toronto lab whose scientists discovered insulin and later contributed to the development of a polio vaccine.

The development of the VSV-EBOV Ebola vaccine was fueled by a fortuitous collection of infectious disease experts who worked at the Winnipeg lab in the early 2000s, and by their decision to take up the ambitious challenge of trying to tame Ebola.

The facility in the Prairie city is one of only a handful of North American labs capable of handling level four, or BSL-4, pathogens and the only such lab in Canada.

The scientists decided to tackle Ebola even though it has historically killed fewer people than other diseases. The latest outbreak, the world’s deadliest, has so far taken 1,069 lives mostly in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

“Ebola is so infectious and so aggressive that we’re using it also as a disease model, with the rationale that if we can find a good vaccine against Ebola, if we can find a good treatment, (they) will likely work for us against other agents,” Gary Kobinger, chief of special pathogens at the Winnipeg facility, told Reuters.

“The beginning of the rationale was, ‘Let’s try to tackle that one, just because it’s the toughest one’.”


The Ebola research was led by Heinz Feldmann who was recruited to work at the Winnipeg lab when it opened in 1999.

He came from the University of Marburg in Germany. A virus similar to Ebola caused a 1967 outbreak in the university town, and was named the Marburg virus. Feldmann’s interest in hemorrhagic fever was a key factor behind the Winnipeg push for an experimental vaccine.

“We both grew up next door to BSL-4 labs,” said Thomas Geisbert, a former virologist at US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, who worked on the experimental vaccine with Feldmann.

“We had this idea, certainly more his idea than mine, (about how a vaccine could work).”

In 2005, the Winnipeg team announced it had developed an Ebola vaccine that was highly effective in monkeys. Along with collaborators in the United States, Germany and France, it published the results in the journal Nature Medicine.

The lab never tested its vaccine on humans because Ebola had affected a relatively small number of people globally, Kobinger said. More lethal viruses and diseases competed for funding.

Feldmann, who left Winnipeg in 2008 to join a U.S. National Institutes of Health lab in Montana, was en route to Africa and declined to comment for this story.

Before the Winnipeg lab opened, Canada did not have a single level four lab. Samples from patients who showed symptoms of certain rare diseases were sent to the United States for diagnosis.

A suspected Lassa fever case in Toronto in 1976, however, sparked panic in the city. A hospital was shut down for days and staff put in isolation until results of tests came back negative from the United States, where hemorrhagic fever had been studied for years. By the early 1980s, Canada was planning its own lab.

Geisbert said reports that the Soviet Union had developed Marburg and Ebola viruses as weapons during the Cold War spurred the U.S. military’s search for a vaccine, and government funding for Ebola research also jumped after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

“We had great support from governments to do that work, to develop these products, to show that they work in nonhuman primates,” said Geisbert, now a professor at the University of Texas in Galveston.

“I can tell you that I think of the four or five vaccines that work in nonhuman primates, I would take this one, my whole lab would take this one in a heartbeat.”

© Thomson Reuters 2014


Canadian News

Ontario to reopen province, guiding principles unveiled



Ontario to reopen province, guiding principles unveiled

THE Ontario government on Monday released A Framework for Reopening our Province, which outlines the criteria Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health and health experts will use to advise the government on the loosening of emergency measures, as well as guiding principles for the safe, gradual reopening of businesses, services and public spaces.

The framework also provides details of an outreach strategy, led by the Ontario Jobs and Recovery Committee, to help inform the restart of the provincial economy.

Details were provided by Premier Doug Ford, Rod Phillips, Minister of Finance, Vic Fedeli, Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade, and Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health.

“Our top priority remains protecting the health and safety of the people of Ontario and supporting our frontline heroes as we do everything in our power to contain and defeat this deadly virus,” said Ford. “At the same time, we are preparing for the responsible restart of our economy. This next phase of our response to COVID-19 is designed to help us map out what needs to be done, and when, to get us back on the road to recovery.”

The government is planning a stage-by-stage approach to reopening the economy to ensure there are appropriate measures in place so workplaces can open safely. Public health officials will carefully monitor each stage for two to four weeks, as they assess the evolution of the COVID-19 outbreak to determine if it is necessary to change course to maintain public health.

  • Stage 1: For businesses that were ordered to close or restrict operations, opening select workplaces that can immediately modify operations to meet public health guidance. Opening some outdoor spaces like parks and allowing for a greater number of individuals to attend some events. Hospitals would also begin to offer some non-urgent and scheduled surgeries, and other health care services.
  • Stage 2: Opening more workplaces, based on risk assessments, which may include some service industries and additional office and retail workplaces. Some larger public gatherings would be allowed, and more outdoor spaces would open.
  • Stage 3: Opening of all workplaces responsibly and further relaxing of restrictions on public gatherings.

Throughout each stage, continued protections for vulnerable populations must be in place, along with the continued practice of physical distancing, hand washing and respiratory hygiene, and significant mitigation plans to limit health risks.

“Recent public health indicators show us that we’re beginning to turn a corner in the COVID-19 outbreak, while economic data, feedback from businesses and insights from our communities are outlining how we need to plan for economic recovery,” said Phillips. “Turning on an economy after an unprecedented shut-down is not as simple as flipping a switch. We need to plan this out carefully to ensure we do not spark a sudden outbreak, undo the progress we have made and put the safety of the public at risk.”

To reopen the economy, the government will consider factors such as the risk of the spread of COVID-19 and the ability to implement protective measures to keep workplaces safe. The Chief Medical Officer of Health and health experts will provide advice to the government about easing public health measures using a range of set criteria, including:

  • A consistent two-to-four week decrease in the number of new daily COVID-19 cases;
  • Sufficient acute and critical care capacity, including access to ventilators and ongoing availability of personal protective equipment;
  • Approximately 90 per cent of new COVID-19 contacts are being reached by local public health officials within one day, with guidance and direction to contain community spread; and
  • Ongoing testing of suspected COVID-19 cases, especially of vulnerable populations, to detect new outbreaks quickly.

“It is because of the collective efforts of all Ontarians to stay at home and stop the spread of COVID-19 that we are able to consider plans to move into the next phase of our battle against this virus,” said Elliott. “The Chief Medical Officer of Health has outlined some criteria he will use to advise government on when we may begin to slowly and safely ease public health measures and restart our economy. To be able to do so, w e need everyone to continue their extraordinary efforts so that we can meet these thresholds and begin to move forward.”

Supporting the next phases of Ontario’s Action Plan, the new Ontario Jobs and Recovery Committee, chaired by Minister Phillips, will be consulting with key sectors in all regions to assess the impact of COVID-19 on the provincial economy and develop a plan to move forward. The government and Members of Provincial Parliament will lead discussions with business associations, chambers of commerce, municipal leaders, the postsecondary sector, corporate leaders, small business owners, community and social service providers, Indigenous partners, Franco-Ontarians, entrepreneurs and others.

The work of the committee will build on Ontario’s Action Plan: Responding to COVID-19, the first phase of the government’s $17 billion response, that is delivering targeted relief for businesses and families across Ontario.

“The COVID-19 outbreak has had far-reaching economic impacts for businesses and communities across Ontario,” said Fedeli. “In the face of these challenges, businesses and individuals have stepped up to support our frontline workers, produce essential equipment and keep our supply chains moving. Our plan to carefully and methodically reopen Ontario’s economy will ensure that businesses are supported on our path to renewed economic prosperity.”

Continue Reading

Canadian News

Stephen Lecce, Ontario education minister appoints investigator to examine Peel District School Board



Ontario education minister appoints investigator to examine Peel District School Board

ONTARIO’S Minister of Education, Stephen Lecce, on Tuesday announced he has appointed Arleen Huggins to conduct an investigation into the Peel District School Board’s compliance with the Minister’s binding Directions to the Board issued on March 13.

“We expect our school leaders – trustees, senior administration, and educators – to ensure all students are learning in safe and inclusive classrooms,” said Lecce. “This is why effective, transparent, and accountable school board governance is essential to the success and well-being of students in Ontario’s publicly funded schools.”

Huggins is a practising lawyer with 30 years experience in employment law, human rights law, workplace harassment and discrimination investigations and commercial litigation. She is a former President of the Canadian Association of Black Lawyers and a Former Chair of both the Canadian Bar Association Standing Committee on Equity and the Ontario Bar Association Equal Opportunity Committee.  Huggins was also on the founding Board of the African Canadian Legal Clinic and has served on the Doctors Without Borders Human Resources Committee and the federal Judicial Appointments Advisory Committee (JAAC) for the GTA.

With the issuance of 27 binding Directions to the Board on March 13, the minister provided clear direction with specific timelines and deliverables to address systemic discrimination, particularly anti-Black racism, as well as dysfunctional governance, leadership and human resources practices within the PDSB.

“When it comes to confronting racism and discrimination, I will not accept delay or inaction,” added Lecce. “The message I am sending is — do better. Our kids deserve better. And I will do whatever it takes to ensure these issues are addressed immediately and effectively.”

The Ontario Government said it is committed to ensuring PDSB complies with the minister’s binding directions so that parents, students and the community get the positive change that they need and deserve.

Huggins will deliver her report to the minister on or before May 18.

The PDSB is responsible for 257 schools in Brampton, Mississauga and Caledon, and over 155,000 students representing a rich array of racial, ethnic, linguistic and religious backgrounds.

Continue Reading

Canadian News

COVID-19″ More Indo-Canadians returning are from India



More flights carrying Canadians leave India

CANADIAN High Commissioner in New Delhi, Nadir Patel, tweeted on Wednesday morning that the 15th special flight from India to Canada – had left Mumbai, bringing home more Canadian travelers stranded in India.

He added: “More special flights taking place in the coming days, thanks to all for your patience while we work through the complexities.”

On Tuesday, the 14th special flight with Canadians took off from Kolkata and Patel tweeted: “Huge thanks to our colleagues Australian High Commissioner Barry O’Farrell & his team for collaborating to make this happen.”

The 13th special flight with Canadians had departed from Bangalore on Monday, covering six states in the south.

And last Sunday (April 26) the 12th special flight from India departed from Ahmedabad, Gujarat, with nearly 300 Canadians aboard.

More flights carrying Canadians leave India

More flights carrying Canadians leave India

Continue Reading

Follow us on Twitter


Skip to toolbar