This week, global biopharma company, GSK, reaffirmed its longstanding partnership with the University of Alberta’s Li Ka Shing Institute of Virology (LKSIoV). On February 8, 2023, GSK presented a cheque of $1.5 million to LKSIoV to advance its mission to improve human health with lifesaving medicine and therapeutics. The investment will support the GSK Chair in Virology at the U of A held by Dr. David Lorne Tyrrell bringing the total value of the endowed chair to almost $6 million. The funding will support the attraction of top talent in the Edmonton Metropolitan Region’s thriving biotech industry and create new jobs. It will also advance the development of new antivirals, vaccines, and lifesaving drugs.
Marni Freeman, VP & Medical Director of GSK Canada, said “GSK believes that it is in our collective best interest to ensure that centres and thought leaders are supported – to maintain and drive excellence in research, to link innovation to the patient’s eventual access, and to attract and retain top talent.” She declared the partnership between the two organizations was imperative in directing scientific discoveries and breakthroughs towards viable, life-changing solutions.
“We could have another pandemic soon and we need to be prepared,” says, the founding director of LKIoV, and GSK chair holder, Dr. Tyrrell. “This will help the University of Alberta be in a strong position for pandemic preparedness going forward.”
GSK is working to get ahead of disease in over 80 markets and has facilitated the ongoing development of over 60 vaccines. It has four global research and development centres and is first in the Access to Medicine Index for people in low to middle income countries. Its research focuses on four main therapeutic areas: HIV, oncology, infectious diseases, and immunology.
GSK has a longstanding relationship with the University dating back nearly 40 years. This partnership has had an enormous positive impact on health, jobs, and employment in the Edmonton region. The organization previously helped recruit the esteemed Dr. Michael Houghton who won a Nobel Prize in 2020 for discovering the Hepatitis C virus (HCV). This discovery in 1989 led to a new field of viral hepatitis research that helped improve blood safety and resulted in an HCV treatment where the infection is cured in virtually all patients. Houghton and his team’s findings ultimately led to drastically reduced transmission: by more than 80% by 1996.
The Li Ka Shing Institute attracts top scientific talent from around the world to the Edmonton region and produces pivotal research year after year that continues to advance the region’s health and life sciences sector. The Institute unites a consortium of over 50 world-renowned researchers to promote scientific advancements to further our understanding of infectious diseases and our immune responses to viruses and other pathogens. It collaborates with 68 international organizations in 23 counties.
Current projects at the LKSIoV include:
Additionally, the LKSIoV is also actively working to close the drug manufacturing gap in Canada working on a joint effort with Applied Pharmaceutical Innovation (API) called the Canadian Critical Drug Initiative (CCDI). This partnership is working to help Canada produce small-molecule drugs, which represent the majority of drugs in the country.