Canada invests $15M to support biomanufacturing supply chain for wastewater surveillance

Dr. Arezoo Emadi, Dr. Mike McKay, Dr. Kendall Soucie, and Dr. Kenneth Ng are pictured along the Detroit Riverfront, showcasing the interdisciplinary team leading the $15 million INSPIRE project to advance Canada's biomanufacturing and pandemic response capabilities. Photo Credit: UWindsor

New federal funding of $15 million will help to support a wastewater surveillance network and bolster Canada’s biomanufacturing sector to improve health sector supply chains, cross-border trade and mobility, and explore new technologies in pathogen surveillance.

The Integrated Network for the Surveillance of Pathogens: Increasing Resilience and Capacity in Canada’s Pandemic Response (INSPIRE) brings together 43 researchers from seven universities and public and private agencies. The team consists of biochemists, microbiologists, engineers, computer scientists, and supply chain public policy experts. 

INSPIRE will develop strategic partnerships with researchers in Michigan, Ohio, and New York to create a cross-border pathogen surveillance network covering regions where many supply chains supporting Canadian industry originate.

The University of Windsor’s Cross-Border Institute will focus on optimizing cross-border policies and programs to make Canada a more attractive destination for life sciences companies.

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“During the COVID-19 pandemic, we had supply chain shortages, we couldn’t get enough PPE in Canada, we weren’t making our own vaccines,” announced Dr. Mike McKay, director of the University of Windsor’s Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research.

McKay is leading INSPIRE with Dr. Lawrence Goodridge, a professor in the Department of Food Sciences, and director of the Canadian Research Institute for Food Safety within the Ontario Agricultural College at the University of Guelph.

The project will build up Canada’s capacity to produce vaccines and therapeutics by advancing wastewater surveillance and developing technologies that simplify and speed up sampling and pathogen detection.  

“As we deal with the increasing emergence of infectious diseases, it’s imperative that we enhance our preparedness for future health crises,” says Goodridge in a statement from the University of Guelph.

The team also includes researchers from the University of Waterloo, University of Toronto and York University, as well as partners at more than 30 academic, public, private and not-for-profit institutions.  

University of Waterloo scientists Dr. Trevor Charles and Dr. Andrew Doxey have been granted $1.5 million in research funds to fulfill their part of the larger multi-institute team looking to advance wastewater analysis. 

By using high-throughput metagenomic sequencing, Dr. Charles and his team will detect  new, existing and emerging pathogens and antimicrobial resistance, building on all the work done in Waterloo research labs tracking SARS-CoV-2 and its variants, as well as with other viruses like influenza and RSV. 

“This same technology also has potential for application in agriculture and food production, with implications for human, animal and crop health,” announced Dr. Charles. “A recent example is the emergence of avian influenza in cattle.”

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