Editors note: CanSino Biologics provided a response to Global News after this story was published.
As China races to develop a COVID-19 vaccine, a multimillion-dollar collaboration between Canada and China has failed, likely because of Beijing’s geopolitical concerns, say scientists with direct knowledge of the project.
This week Canada’s National Research Council (NRC) announced it has abandoned its partnership with Chinese company CanSino Biologics, because China’s government continues to block shipments of vaccine materials to Canada.
The NRC — which is part of the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry — has received about $44-million since late March to upgrade its production capacity in Montreal in preparation for materials expected from CanSino.
Now the NRC says it is working with two other COVID-19 vaccine collaborators including the United States company VBI Vaccines.
“With the funding received from the Government of Canada on March 23 and April 23, much work is underway at NRC … to certify our facility … and expand production,” NRC stated. “These enhancements to the facility will support a broad range of partners and clients with research, scale-up support, and the manufacturing of vaccines and therapeutics.”
In May, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau endorsed the deal with CanSino — a company funded by Beijing and producing its vaccine with the People’s Liberation Army.
CanSino’s COVID-19 vaccine is being tested on Chinese soldiers and has been approved for testing at the Canadian Center for Vaccinology (CCfV) at Dalhousie University in Halifax. CanSino’s vaccine was supposed to arrive at the CCfV in June.
But after Canada signed the CanSino deal “the Government of China changed rules on shipping vaccines,” the NRC said this week in a statement.
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CanSino was founded in 2009 by Chinese scientist Dr. Xuefeng Yu, who was educated at McGill University in Quebec and worked for Sanofi Pasteur, before returning to China.
Yu did not respond to interview requests from Global News, but this week reportedly told the Globe and Mail that “bureaucratic indecision” from Chinese officials has delayed shipments of CanSino’s vaccine to Canada.
After this story was published CanSino issued this statement: “Up to the date of this announcement, the collaboration between the National Research Council of Canada and the Company has not been terminated. None of the management of the Company has accepted any interview in relation to the clinical trails (sic) for Ad5-nCoV in Canada in the recent period; and the Company is currently driving the international multi-center phase III clinical trial for Ad5-nCoV with several countries.”
The failed collaboration was based upon the NRC providing CanSino a license to use Canada’s proprietary biological product HEK293, a line of cells that CanSino has previously used with the Chinese military to develop a vaccine for the Ebola virus.
In an interview CCfV director Scott Halperin said “the collaboration between CanSino and (CCfV) and NRC was excellent.”
“The vaccine was caught up in Chinese customs, and CanSino did everything they were asked to, but the approvals never came through.”
Halperin said the key benefit to Canadians — if the CanSino vaccine had passed testing at Dalhousie — was Canadians would have been front of the line with a guaranteed supply of the CanSino vaccine, produced in Canada by the NRC.
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Halperin and another leading Canadian vaccine researcher, Gary Kobinger, said geopolitical competition appears to have destroyed the Canada-China vaccine partnership.
“We can’t think of any other reason the vaccine was not shipped,” Halperin said.
“Getting politics involved into a vaccine is never good,” Kobinger said. “Whether it’s the Chinese government or the Chinese army or the Canadian government (responsible for the CanSino deal failure) I think it’s unfortunate that politicians are building walls.”
Margaret McCuaig-Johnston — a former Canadian assistant-deputy minister responsible for vaccine collaborations with China — said she believes senior Chinese officials have blocked the CanSino shipments in order to retaliate against Canada for the Meng Wanzhou extradition case, or simply to pursue their geopolitical objectives of becoming a world-leading vaccine provider.
McCuaig-Johnston said in her experience China has previously used customs blockages as a tool in trade disputes, but only top Chinese officials have the authority to take such actions.
McCuaig-Johnston said she was one of the Canadian officials that signed onto an agreement with China in 2007, to share vaccine and technology research. And the partnership was once promising, she said.
“This was a surprise to see our commitment to China, in sharing very significant proprietary intellectual property, run into this major blockage,” McCuaig-Johnston said. “China’s success in vaccines is standing on the back of Canadian researchers and scientists. Over the years we helped China develop its capacity. But China is no longer a reliable partner.”
McCuaig-Johnston says that Canada should broadly reassess any significant research partnerships with China, as evidence mounts that President Xi Jinping’s regime uses international collaboration in order to modernize the People’s Liberation Army and protect the Chinese Communist Party’s interests. And Canadian researchers need to be educated about Xi’s goals.
McCuaig-Johnston says she briefs Canadian scientists working on artificial intelligence (AI) — a field where Beijing plans to dominate by 2025 — on the risks of collaboration.
“When I talk to Canadian AI scientists, they often say ‘I have partnered with my Chinese friends, they would never steal from us,’” McCuaig-Johnston said. “I say ‘yes they would. Unfortunately, that is how China’s system works.’”
CSIS believes Canada to be a ‘permissive target’ for China’s interference
Public Safety Canada has not answered a question from Global News on whether Canadian intelligence agencies provided any warnings about risks related to the CanSino vaccine partnership.
But even in March — before Canada committed to a vaccine partnership — there was ample public reporting indicating that China was racing for the vaccine finish line, alone.
CanSino’s military partner, Major General Chen Wei, was portrayed in Chinese-state media as a so-called “wolf warrior” that could bring glory to Beijing.
“A vaccine is the most powerful weapon to end the novel coronavirus,” Chen was quoted on Chinese state TV in March, the Los Angeles Times reported. “If China is the first to develop this weapon with its own intellectual property rights, it will demonstrate not only the progress of Chinese science and technology, but also our image as a major power.”
Chen and CanSino had already leveraged Canadian research to develop an Ebola vaccine based on the HEK293 cell-line first licensed by the NRC to CanSino, in 2014.
Meanwhile, Halperin says he still hopes to work with CanSino on their vaccine test results from a distance, although Canada’s chance to secure CanSino vaccine supply has been lost.
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Canada reports more than 1,200 new coronavirus cases, 7 deaths – Global News
Winnipeg police say a woman has died and several other people have been injured in a collision involving a vehicle that was fleeing police.
The crash happened at about 1:30 p.m. Saturday in the area of Salter Street and Boyd Avenue, police said in a statement.
According to police, officers tried to pull over a vehicle for a traffic stop but the driver “took off at a high rate of speed.”
Seconds later, the vehicle hit another car in the nearby intersection of Andrews Street and Boyd Avenue.
Four people in the vehicle that was struck — including an infant and a child — were sent to hospital. A woman who was in that vehicle has died from her injuries, police said.
Two people from the vehicle that had fled police were also transported to hospital.
Police said most of the victims are in critical or serious condition.
The Independent Investigation Unit of Manitoba, which investigates serious incidents involving police, has been called to investigate.
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Canada's death toll could hit 16000 by the end of 2020, new modelling warns – CTV News
Canada could see as many as 16,000 COVID-19 deaths by the end of the year if current public safety measures don’t change, according to new modelling from the United States that has provided accurate assessments of the American death toll.
But a Canadian pandemic modelling expert says that, while anything is possible, the American model may not be capturing the whole picture in Canada.
The model from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington suggests Canada could see 16,214 deaths by Jan. 1 based on the current situation. If public safety mandates are loosened, such as physical distancing, the death toll could be even higher, hitting a projected 16,743 lives lost.
Universal masking in public spaces could curb those numbers and save thousands of lives, the model suggests, pointing to countries like Singapore that have successfully put in place masking protocols that are 95 per cent effective. Singapore has reported 27 deaths since the start of the pandemic.
If Canada were to successfully implement similar rules, the modelling predicts a death toll of 12,053.
So far Canada has reported 9,256 deaths from COVID-19 and more than 150,000 cases. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau warned earlier this week that the country is at the beginning of a second wave of infections as he urged Canadians to take public health guidance seriously.
Quebec is leading the country with new cases of COVID-19. On Saturday, the province reported another 698 cases, the highest daily infection numbers since May.
Dionne Aleman, an associate professor at the University of Toronto who specializes in mathematical models for pandemic prediction, said the IHME model is “simplistic” and does not account for regional differences across the country.
While a second wave of COVID-19 infections has started, Aleman points out that deaths are not in a second wave. COVID-19 deaths in Canada peaked in April and May, when more than 100 people died in connection with the virus daily. Those numbers have remained much lower in recent months, with five deaths reported on Friday.
“The fact that deaths are not tracking with infections as they did in the first wave indicates that vulnerable individuals are taking more precautions to protect themselves now, and it is reasonable to assume those precautions will continue as the second wave gets worse. This model does not account for the fact that some people are behaving differently from others, and thus, the projected deaths are likely overstated,” Aleman told CTVNews.ca on Saturday over email.
The latest modelling by the Public Health Agency of Canada does not offer predictions to the end of the year, but suggests that, based on current rates, the death toll could steadily rise to 9,300 lives lost by Oct. 2.
The IMHE modelling has proven to be accurate. Earlier this year, the model predicted that the U.S. would hit 200,000 deaths in September, a grim milestone that happened earlier this week. Now, the model predicts the U.S. death toll will nearly double by the end of the year, reaching 371,509 by Jan. 1.
The IMHE model also predicts daily infections — a number that includes people who aren’t tested for COVID-19 — could hit more than 19,000 by the end of the year.
Aleman said it’s important to remember that, even if a person doesn’t die from COVID-19, the consequences of getting sick can be serious.
“There are numerous examples of otherwise healthy individuals with severe reactions to COVID taking several weeks and even months to recover, and there are indications that there could be long-term health consequences,” she said.
“We should view these projections of exponential infection increase with great concern, and we as individuals should take every reasonable precaution to stem this increase before it is too far out of control. Wearing masks is easy and effective, and we should do it.”
Infections may be on the upswing, but Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said Saturday that limiting personal contacts as much as possible can help once again flatten the curve. She encouraged Canadians to take time this weekend to chat with loved ones about how to keep their bubbles safer.
“Even if people attending an event are part of your extended family, as has been the case with some of these private gathering outbreaks, it doesn’t mean they are not infected, even if no one appears to be unwell,” Tam said in a statement.
“Despite the very real concern of a large resurgence in areas where the virus is escalating, there is still reason to be optimistic that we can get things back to the slow burn.”
B.C. university launches 1st peace and reconciliation centre in Canada – CBC.ca
The University of the Fraser Valley hopes its new Peace and Reconciliation Centre (PARC) — which the school says is the first of its kind in Canada — will help contribute to a more equitable society.
Professor Keith Carlson, the centre’s chair, said institutions like universities and governments can often reinforce unequal power structures by excluding knowledge and experience from historically-marginalized communities.
The PARC was established to counter that by “bringing new voices to the table,” he told Margaret Gallagher, guest host of CBC’s On the Coast on Thursday.
Aside from collaborating with academic departments like Peace and Conflict Studies, the PARC will offer funding and scholarships to students and faculty, as well as community members not affiliated with UFV “who are looking for partners and allies to change the world,” said Carlson.
The Abbotsford-based university says it has received substantial funding from the Oikodome Foundation, a local Christian charity.
UFV launched the PARC Thursday with a virtual event featuring speeches from Steven Point, the first-ever Indigenous chancellor of UBC, and former Ontario Premier Bob Rae, now Canada’s ambassador to the United Nations.
Jacqueline Nolte, dean of UFV’s college of arts, said the university envisions the PARC as a hub for constructive dialogue, research and creative expression aimed at building trust among diverse communities.
“We will facilitate deep listening and mediation such that all people will feel heard and acknowledged,” she said in a news release.
The scope of the centre won’t be narrow.
Along with relations between Indigenous people and settlers, Carlson said the centre could address everything from domestic violence to interfaith conflicts in the Middle East and Ireland.
Carlson, who holds the Canada Research Chair in Indigenous and community-engaged history, echoed Nolte’s words.
“What we’re saying [is] that we value Indigenous ways of knowing,” Carlson said.
“The structures that underlie racism need to be dismantled so that everybody in this country […] will be able to enjoy all the privileges that anybody who’s of European descent [has].”
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