A Canadian drugmaker says it has produced “compelling” early results from animal testing of a COVID-19 vaccine candidate, but the government hasn’t responded to its application for funding that would allow it to advance to human clinical trials.
Calgary-based Providence Therapeutics, which designs cancer drugs using a technique called mRNA, announced Wednesday that the “preclinical” data from testing in mice showed more promising results than other notable COVID-19 research conducted with mRNA vaccines.
“I would gladly test our vaccine head-to-head against any out there,” said Chief Scientific Officer Eric Marcusson in a press release. “It is always difficult to compare preclinical results, however, I believe our results compare extremely favorably to preclinical results reported by other companies.”
Researchers at the University of Toronto conducted tests on mice and found that the vaccine candidate PTX-COVID19-B produced “robust” neutralizing antibodies, which are needed to defend cells from invading pathogens such as the novel coronavirus.
“The results coming from our first animal experiment showed that the vaccines are resulting in a strong immune response,” said Dr. Mario Ostrowski, an immunology professor at the University of Toronto, in a press release. “In particular, the vaccine against the S protein produced neutralizing antibodies at higher titers than the results announced by other mRNA vaccine manufacturers.”
Brad Sorenson, president and CEO of Providence Therapeutics, told CTV News that these results show their vaccine has shown to be “equivalent or better” than those from much larger firms in the vaccine race.
“We expected that it would work, but the results were even greater than we expected, so we were very pleased about that,” he said. “We’re very anxious to repeat this in real-life patients.”
Another notable mRNA vaccine is by U.S. biotechnology company Moderna, which has received hundreds of millions in funding from the U.S. government and entered final-stage testing last month when the first of some 30,000 Americans received the shot.
But Providence, which says it’s one of Canada’s leading mRNA vaccine producers, hasn’t heard from the government since late May and has yet to receive funding for the next stages of its testing after it submitted a $35-million proposal in April. That same month, the federal government committed more than $600 million to vaccine manufacturing and research in Canada, including clinical trials. Among projects already funded as part of that pledge is a partnership between China’s CanSino Biologics and Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia.
Sorenson said his company is expecting to be able to produce 5 million vaccines by next summer, but without help from the federal government, they are hamstrung.
“The challenge that we’re facing is, we’re not a large pharma company,” he said. “We have really good technology, fantastic scientists … but for us to go into human trials, we either need to raise more money — which we can do if we’ve got a government that is indicated that they’re interested in what we’re producing — or we need a government to sponsor those clinical trials.”
Sorenson added that if the Canadian government does not help fund their human trials, they might have to find another government that will.
“We’re at a point in a company that if the Canadian government doesn’t want to do it, we’re going to start looking elsewhere, and that’s just the reality,” he said. “We’ve got a world-class vaccine and if it’s not going to be for Canadians, it’s going to be for somebody else.”
Sorenson said he has already had “preliminary discussions” with other governments about their vaccine, primarily from individual provinces.
Meanwhile, health professionals and politicians alike are urging the government to speed its funding process for homegrown vaccines so that Canadians won’t have to wait in line for another country’s COVID-19 shot. Among those adding their voice was Alberta Sen. Doug Black, who said pressure should be kept on the government to act.
“I see the commitment that’s being made by the European and American governments to this identical technology and I’m saying, ‘Hmm, why in the name of goodness aren’t we pursuing this aggressively in Canada?’” he told The Canadian Press earlier this week. “No stone should be left unturned in pursuit of a made-in-Canada COVID solution.”
Industry Canada, which is charge of administering the $600 million to vaccine manufacturing and research in Canada, has not responded to a CTV News request for comment.
With files from CTVNews.ca Writer Ben Cousins
Canada confirms 873 more coronavirus infections as cases continue to surge – Global News
Canada has diagnosed 873 more people with the novel coronavirus, bringing the country’s surging case count to 143,527 on Sunday.
Provincial and territorial health authorities reported six more people had died from the virus, although those numbers are incomplete as British Columbia, Alberta, Prince Edward Island, the Yukon and Northwest Territories did not report updates over the weekend.
Since the pandemic began, 9,217 people have died from COVID-19 in Canada, while 124,691 have recovered from the virus after falling ill. So far, more than 7.8 million tests have been administered across the country.
Twenty new cases and no new deaths were reported in Saskatchewan. A total of 1,807 infections have been diagnosed there since the pandemic began. Of those, 24 patients have died and 1,643 have recovered.
Health officials have administered 171,945 tests so far.
In Manitoba, provincial health authorities detected 29 new confirmed cases of the virus, though one previously announced diagnosis was removed from the total. Overall, the province has recorded 1,586 cases.
As of Sunday, the province had administered 164,177 tests in total, while 1,216 people had recovered after becoming infected and 16 people had died.
Ontario has diagnosed 46,849 people with the the virus, including 365 announced Sunday along with one more death.
To date, 2,827 people have died throughout the province while more than 3.5 million tests for COVID-19 have been conducted and 40,968 people have recovered.
In Quebec, the province hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic, health officials confirmed 462 new cases of the virus, bringing the provincial tally to 67,542.
In total, the province has confirmed 5,802 people have died from the virus, including five deaths on Sunday. One of those deaths occurred within the last 24 hours, while the other four occurred earlier this month. So far, more than 2 million people in Quebec have been tested for the virus, while 58,796 have recovered.
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New Brunswick reported no new cases of COVID-19 or deaths relating to the virus, and only one case remains active. The provincial tally remains at 194 confirmed diagnoses and two deaths.
There have been 69,791 tests for the virus administered by the province.
Nova Scotia’s provincial cases numbers remained at 1,086 after health authorities detected no new infections or deaths. In total, 88,514 people have been tested, 65 have died and 1,021 are in recovery.
Newfoundland and Labrador saw no new cases of COVID-19 reported Sunday. The provincial total remains at 272, while health authorities said a total of three people had previously died from the virus.
N.L. has conducted more than 37,738 tests for COVID-19, while 268 people have recovered from the virus.
Nunavut confirmed its first two cases of the virus on Saturday. However, a spokesperson from the territory said the cases will not be counted in Nunavut as the individuals who contracted COVID-19 were not residents.
“[The cases] will be counted in the jurisdiction where they contracted the virus,” they said.
So far, 2,593 tests have been administered in Nunavut.
In British Columbia, provincial health officials reported a total of 7,720 cases on Friday and 223 deaths.
In Alberta provincial health officials recorded 107 new infections Friday for a cumulative total of 16,381 infections and 255 deaths.
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No new cases were diagnosed in Prince Edward Island during its most recent update on Wednesday, keeping the provincial tally at 57. The province has yet to see its first COVID-19-related death.
To date, 56 in the province have recovered from the virus.
All 15 confirmed cases in the Yukon have recovered. Nobody in the territory has died from the virus.
All five confirmed cases in the Northwest Territories have also recovered.
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Canadians are still flocking to parks and businesses as country braces for second wave – CTV News
Even though the back-to-school season has coincided with a steady rise in Canada’s active COVID-19 case count and fears that a second wave may soon be upon us, Canadians do not seem to be meaningfully adjusting their behaviour when it comes to leaving the house.
Colin Furness, an infection control epidemiologist at the University of Toronto, said Sunday that a lot of Canadians seem to be taking a “we can do whatever we want” approach to their life in recent weeks.
“It feels to me like a lot of people just threw up their hands and said ‘I’m tired of this. I’m hugging, I’m going out, I’m seeing friends,'” he told Sunday on CTV News Channel.
That feeling is backed up by data compiled by Google and Apple, which shows that Canadians are spending more time in parks and at businesses than they were even in the first half of the summer, when the country first emerged from its various pandemic-imposed lockdowns.
Google bases its public mobility reports on information gleaned from users of its services who allow the company to keep track of the destinations they visit.
According to its most recent report for Canada, dated Sept. 11, Canadians are spending 151 per cent more time in parks than they were before the pandemic began.
This can be partially explained by the calendar; of course a park will be busier in September than it was in February. More telling, though, is that based on Google’s data, park usage has steadily increased over the past few months – from 80 per cent above the baseline level in early June to 140 per cent in mid-July to 150 per cent on Sept. 11.
SPENDING LESS TIME AT HOME
Also increasing has been Canadians’ activity in retail and recreation settings – what Google terms “places like restaurants, cafes, shopping centres, theme parks, museums, libraries, and movie theatres.”
At the height of the lockdown, in early April, activity at these establishments was as much as 80 per cent below Google’s pre-pandemic baseline. That number has slowly crept back up ever since, even surpassing it on Labour Day weekend before settling in for a longer stay just below the baseline.
Labour Day weekend also represents a peak in Apple’s mass-collected mobility trends report for Canada. Apple found that requests made for driving directions were 88 per cent higher on Sept. 4 than they were on Jan. 13 (their pre-pandemic baseline), while requests for walking directions were up by 80 per cent. Both numbers were at their highest points in 2020. (Requests for public transit directions were about two-thirds of their pre-pandemic levels, or about four times what they were at the height of the pandemic.)
Time spent in grocery stores and pharmacies has been slightly above Google’s baseline for the past month, suggesting Canadians may be doing more supermarket shopping to make up for the decreasing number of meals eaten out.
The amount of time spent at home, meanwhile, has fallen from 20 per cent in early May to 10 per cent in mid-July to eight per cent on Sept. 11.
Taken together, all of this implies Canadians feel safer leaving their homes now than they did not only early on in the pandemic, but also for most of the summer.
That would certainly make sense if the novel coronavirus was still slowing its spread across Canada – but aside from Atlantic Canada and the territories, that’s hardly been the case.
Canada’s active case count has been rising since early August and is more than double what it was one month ago, according to a CTV News tally. Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia have all begun to re-enact some of the restrictions lifted earlier in the summer. All four provinces show similar patterns in the Google data, with their residents spending less time at home and more time out in public than they were even a month or two ago.
“We know what to do; we just aren’t necessarily doing it as well as we could,” Dr. Brian Conway, president and medical director of the Vancouver Infectious Diseases Centre, said Sunday on CTV News Channel.
“Certain individuals are making decisions … not to follow all of the public health recommendations, and this leads to an increase in cases.”
IS IT QUARANTINE FATIGUE?
Because of the increasing COVID-19 diagnosis numbers and rolling back of reopenings, there is a rising belief that Canada is on the precipice of a second wave of the pandemic.
Dr. Lisa Barrett, an infectious disease specialist at Dalhousie University in Halifax, told CTV News Channel on Sunday that she believes “some form of a second wave” is already underway in Ontario and Quebec.
“We don’t know yet if it’s going to be a big wave or one of those smaller waves that we can control. That really, really depends on how people manage themselves,” she said.
Dr. Theresa Tam said this week that “the time to act is now,” noting that the daily new case numbers more accurately reflect how society was responding to the virus two weeks ago than how it is responding today.
Of course, the rising numbers do not come as a surprise to Canada’s chief public health officer. She warned in July that Canada could see a “backslide” if too many Canadians continued to ignore public health advice, and cautioned in August that the fall would be a “period of challenge” due to cooling weather and the back-to-school period.
On the surface, something doesn’t add up. The warnings from authorities have been constant and consistent, and are starting to come true – and yet Canadians are still spending more time in public, where contact with the virus is more likely.
One possible explanation is that quarantine fatigue has set in.
Also known as pandemic fatigue, response fatigue and many other terms, quarantine fatigue is essentially the idea that citizens are tired of the pandemic and no longer take the necessary precautions to stop it.
This is why “we can’t let our guard down” is such a common refrain from political and medical leaders – both in Europe, where the World Health Organization is now warning about quarantine fatigue as cases skyrocket, and in Canada, where authorities hope to avoid the same scenario.
Barrett said that Canadians “really need to take to heart” the advice from public health leaders, spending less time outside the home and keeping their social circles to a small number.
“If people are able to do the things that have already been suggested, we may be able to keep a handle on things,” she said.
Canada adds more than 800 new coronavirus cases, 6 deaths – Global News
The number of Canadians who have tested positive for the novel coronavirus grew by 865 on Saturday, while the national death toll rose by six.
There have been 142,654 cases since COVID-19 was first diagnosed in Canada in late January and 9,211 deaths overall.
Across the country more than 7.7 million tests have been conducted throughout the pandemic, and 87 per cent of all cases are resolved.
The number of new cases being reported daily has increased by more than 60 per cent in the last two weeks, and demand for testing has increased sharply as well.
Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, said on average about 849 cases were reported per day in the last week.
“I urge all Canadians to take action now to slow the spread of the virus. In addition to strict adherence with personal protective measures (e.g. physical distancing, handwashing and wearing non-medical masks where appropriate), we must all reduce our number of contacts to a minimum,” she said in a statement.
“Most importantly, stay home and isolate yourself from others if you are experiencing any symptoms, even if mild.”
The vast majority of the new cases occurred in Ontario and Quebec, though Saturday’s numbers are incomplete because the territories, Alberta, B.C. and P.E.I. do not release daily statistics on the weekend.
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Quebec announced 427 new infections, bringing its total to 67,080. Five deaths were recorded, three of which occurred earlier this month, officials said.
Premier François Legault said Saturday he has tested negative for COVID-19 but would remain in isolation until Sept. 28.
Legault and his wife were tested after meeting with Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole — who has since tested positive.
In Ontario, Premier Doug Ford announced the province would be extending restrictions on private events to all areas of the province.
Earlier in the week, new limits on the number of people allowed to gather were announced for virus hotspots such as Toronto and Ottawa.
“Over the past several days, we have seen alarming growth in the number of COVID cases in Ontario,” Ford said.
“The alarm bells are ringing. And too much of it has been tied to people who aren’t following the rules. People who think it’s OK to hold parties, to carry on as if things are back to normal. They aren’t.”
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Ontario added 407 new cases on Saturday and one new death was announced. The province has seen a cumulative total of 46,848 infections.
Officials in Saskatchewan said they hit a record high in testing on Friday, with 2,873 samples taken. There were 11 cases discovered. Overall, the province has seen 1,787 cases and 24 fatalities.
In Manitoba, 18 new cases were reported Saturday. The province has the lowest cumulative case total in Western Canada at 1,558, including some cases considered presumptive.
Nunavut reported its first two confirmed cases Saturday. The two people diagnosed are workers at the Hope Bay Mine, located southwest of Cambridge Bay, officials said. They are believed to have been exposed to the virus in their home province.
“Hope Bay Mine is an isolated location, and no Nunavut residents currently work there. The risk of COVID-19 spreading in our communities because of these cases remains very low,” Health Minister George Hickes said in a statement.
There are currently no other active cases in Canada’s North. The infections previously announced in Yukon and Northwest Territories — 20 in total — have long been resolved.
Three out of four provinces in Atlantic Canada provided updates on the pandemic Saturday but no new cases were announced. There are only a handful of active cases remaining in the region.
On Friday, British Columbia added 179 new cases, though 40 of them dated back to early August, and Alberta reported 107 new positive tests.
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On Saturday, the U.S. coronavirus death toll was poised to reach 200,000, according to a tally kept by Johns Hopkins University.
Around the world, more than 30 million people have been diagnosed with the illness, and nearly 954,000 people have lost their lives.
—With files from The Canadian Press, Mickey Djuric, Ryan Rocca and David Lao, Global News
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
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