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Vancouver biotech company contributes key component for COVID-19 vaccine

Researchers at Acuitas Therapeutics have been working seven days a week since February to develop the lipid nanoparticle technology that allows the prototype Pfizer vaccine to work.
By: Heather Marie Connors
November 14, 2020
Photo provided.

U.S. pharmaceutical company Pfizer recently announced that the vaccine they developed is demonstrating 90% effectiveness, providing some much-needed good news in the fight against COVID-19. Vancouver-based company Acuitas Therapeutics developed the lipid nanoparticle technology (LNP) that acts as a delivery vehicle for the vaccine’s messenger RNA (mRNA) to enter cells without being broken down by the body.

“With mRNA, what we are doing is providing instructions to the cells in our body to make a component – a protein on the surface – of the COVID-19 virus,” said Thomas Madden, president and CEO of Acuitas. “And when our body produces that protein, our immune system recognizes it as being foreign and produces a response against it.”

Vancouver is highly regarded in the field of bio-sciences, and that reputation began with University of British Columbia researchers. Madden was a UBC nanomedicine faculty member prior to founding Acuitas.

“We have a concentration of talent and expertise in this area that is second to none, and it’s only now with COVID-19 that there’s a broader recognition of how important a contribution a Vancouver company is making to the development of this vaccine,” Madden said. “As part of that larger team, we’ve been developing this for many, many years, and several companies have been spun out of the research being done at UBC.”

Source: BIV Newsletter

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