UBC-grown biotech companies lead global pandemic efforts

Research Excellence | Strategy 9: Knowledge Exchange
Theme: Innovation

Millions of Canadians have received the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, but many may not realize that a key component of the injection was developed right here at UBC.

Acuitas Therapeutics, a UBC spin-off company co-founded by Dr. Pieter Cullis, developed the lipid nanoparticle technology that allows the Pfizer-BioNTech mRNA vaccine to enter human cells.

For the UBC professor, he says he never imagined Acuitas’ technology might one day help bring an end to the global pandemic. “Two years ago, I thought I had reached the apex of my career when we developed a medicine for a genetic disorder that works extremely well,” said Dr. Cullis. “But to have this sort of thing happen, it’s like a one-in-a-million possibility. And the impact that it is having, it’s putting Canada on the map for making an enormous difference to global health.”

For UBC Vice-President Health Dr. Dermot Kelleher, the pandemic has shone a spotlight on the critical role emerging biotech companies are playing in developing safe treatments for diseases, including COVID-19. Investing in B.C.’s biotech sector will reduce the time and cost for new therapeutics, devices and diagnostics to move through the development pipeline and reach patients faster, as well as create employment opportunities for British Columbians, including UBC students and new graduates.

“We still have a long way to go, but the pandemic has demonstrated what can be accomplished at an accelerated pace,” Dr. Kelleher said. “As we turn towards recovery, we have an unprecedented opportunity now to invest in B.C.’s biotechnology sector and to accelerate scientific discoveries into new drugs and treatments more effectively and more efficiently for other diseases such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease.”

Please visit the UBC News website to learn more about the scientific developments, and how British Columbia is growing as a global biotechnology hub.

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