ARCHIVED - NRC Builds Health Bridges with Latin America

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April 06, 2006— Ottawa, Ontario

Baby receiving vaccine (Credit: Heber Biotec, Ingeniería Genética y Biotecnología)
Baby receiving vaccine (Credit: Heber Biotec, Ingeniería Genética y Biotecnología)

Malaria, meningitis, cholera, and tuberculosis – already challenged public health systems are facing a resurgence of these diseases. Today more than ever, a collective response is required to address these truly global health challenges: life science, technology, innovation and regulation all play critical roles in shaping the foundations of our ability to respond – not only within one country, but across borders.

Recently, the National Research Council (NRC) organized a four day international workshop focused on improving human vaccine development and global vaccination networks. Infectious disease scientists, regulators and business people gathered from Canada and the Latin America in Ottawa for this forum. They came from Brazil, Chile, Cuba, Colombia and Mexico to meet their colleagues and counterparts in Canada. This networking activity was applauded by its participants, as it achieved its goal of fostering international dialogue regarding vaccine development, production, commercialization and distribution. The roundtables also encouraged talks of collaborative R&D partnerships and global vaccination networks with greater harmonization of regulatory standards.

Dr. Gabrielle Adams, Director General of the organizing NRC Institute for Biological Sciences (NRC-IBS) led a panel of researchers, industry representatives and regulatory experts to discuss challenges and demand for further knowledge-sharing and partnership building opportunities between Canada and the Latin America. Panel participants suggested convening further meetings at country and institution levels to foster more exchange between scientists.

Dr. Vicente Verez Bencomo (Universidad de La Habana, Cuba), Dr. Eleonora Altman (NRC-IBS, Canada) and Dr. Violeta Fernandez Santana (Universidad de La Habana, Cuba).
Dr. Vicente Verez Bencomo (Universidad de La Habana, Cuba), Dr. Eleonora Altman (NRC-IBS, Canada) and Dr. Violeta Fernandez Santana (Universidad de La Habana, Cuba).

This forum included representation from several Canadian government agencies and companies, amongst them: the organizing NRC-IBS and NRC International Relations Office, Health Canada, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, ImmunoVaccine Technologies, Variation Technologies and sanofi pasteur Ltd. Similarly the Latin Americas were represented by several government and business entities, including Brazil's Instituto Butantán and Bio-Manguinhos, Cuba's Instituto Finlay, Centro de Ingeniería Genética y Biotecnología and Centro de Estudios de Antigenos Sinteticos, Universidad de la Habana and Mexico's Instituto Mexicano del Seguro Social and Birmex.

True to the goals of this symposium, challenging issues were exposed and discussed. In response to the commercialization challenges voiced by attending Latin American researchers, valuable Canadian insights and models were offered, amongst them the NRC Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC-IRAP). Scientists from all attending nations voiced the importance of substantial and sustained Government financial support for R&D organizations. In addition, several called for greater incentives and involvement of the private sector in the commercialization of discoveries.

During this meeting of minds, NRC researchers showcased their expertise in vaccine development and delivery systems which included conjugated Meningitis-C work, pentabody-based diagnostics and archaeosome vaccine delivery systems.

Participants recognized the importance of sharing information between nations, to advance common areas of infectious disease research more rapidly. The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) stated its role in creating greater harmonization of regulatory processes. It also highlighted how it ensures that vaccines remain affordable and meet quality standards for the Americas.

A highlight of this week of vaccine development presentations was the talk given by the University of Toronto Director for the Joint Centre for Bioethics, Dr. Peter Singer. This distinguished life science researcher spoke of how genomic and nanotechnology advances could lead to improved global health. He also reiterated the importance of international networking activities, such as this one, for stimulating collaborative R&D with global partners.

Dr. Peter Singer (University of Toronto).
Dr. Peter Singer (University of Toronto).

This forum of vaccine development was made possible thanks to the support of the Canadian Biotechnology Secretariat (CBSec) and the drive of NRC's Dr. Eleonora Altman. Dr. Altman bridged cultures and continents to develop vaccination strategies against Helicobacter pylori in Latin America with her colleagues in Chile, Cuba and at the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). CBSec provides federal government biotechnology departments and agencies with policy and coordination support for the Canadian Biotechnology Strategy.

As a world-renowned R&D organization, NRC is striving to build bridges between nations with advanced health biotechnology programs. These international activities will improve knowledge transfer and will lead to speedier design of innovative vaccines to meet the challenges of global health. The success of these concerted efforts will help improve health and wellness in developing countries and should facilitate the eradication of infectious diseases worldwide.

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