Ottawa promises $192 million for vaccine production, Vancouver company among recipients

What happened: PM announces $5 billion in additional support to farmers, nearly $200 million for vaccine production and a new advertising campaign to educate Canadians on staying at home

Why it matters: Public officials have been growing increasingly exasperated by those Canadians choosing not to engage in social distancing

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A Vancouver biotech firm will be among the recipients of $192 million in direct support from Ottawa meant to accelerate clinical trials and production for a COVID-19 vaccine.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau name-dropped AbCellera Biologics Inc., which specializes in antibody discovery, during his daily briefing outside his home in Ottawa Monday (March 23).

“We’re investing in a long-term solution to COVID-19 right here at home. Our government will be signing an agreement with Vancouver-based AbCellera to support their work on drugs to prevent and treat COVID-19,” he said.

The prime minister said the funding in necessary to ensure the country can offer mass treatment as quickly as possible.

AbCellera announced last week it was partnering with American pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly and Co. to combat the virus.

The Vancouver company has developed what it calls a rapid pandemic response platform for the quick development, manufacturing and distribution of therapeutic antibodies.

Eli Lilly will use AbCellera’s platform to zero in on those antibodies generated in a natural immune response to the coronavirus, which is “novel” — meaning humans do not have any natural immunity to it.

The goal is to develop a new drug to treat people with the virus once they have it.

“The aim is to begin clinical trials this summer,” Innovation, Science and Industry Minister Navdeep Bains said during a ministers’ briefing that followed Trudeau's announcement.

The government did not announce how much funding it was providing AbCellera.

Trudeau also announced farmers and those in the agri-food business would soon be able to tap into an additional $5 billion in lending capacity for the industry.

This comes after Ottawa unveiled an $82 billion stimulus package March 18, which includes $27 billion in direct support to Canadians.

Parliament is being recalled this week to vote on the measures, starting with the House of Commons Tuesday (March 24).

But before that, Trudeau will be speaking to provincial premiers Monday (March 23) to determine best strategies for addressing the pandemic, and assisting Canadians and businesses amid the economy.

The prime minister confirmed that among the measures on the agenda is the possibility of closing provincial borders to minimize the potential for further spread of COVID-19.

Trudeau also had some of his sternest words yet for those not abiding by calls from health officials to engage in social distancing.

“We’ve all seen the pictures online of people who seem to think they’re invincible. Well, you’re not,” he said.

“Enough is enough. Go home and stay home.”

He added that the government is going to make sure this happens, whether through education or “by enforcing the rules, if that’s needed.”

The prime minister said the federal government will launch an advertising blitz to inform Canadians of the importance of staying at home.

—With files from Nelson Bennett


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