Wellness In The Workplace: Wellness Matters Event – April 22nd 2021  Find out more

Canadian Genetic Technology and the Future of Treating Diseases

1st June 2021

Addison Schaub is a Junior Safety Advisor with Carbon Safety Solutions, and has a strong interest in the sciences.  He’s our guest blogger for May, and has focused on some Canadian Technology being used to develop a Canadian COVID-19 vaccine.

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to be a major topic of conversation, but with more Canadians receiving vaccines there may be an end coming in the foreseeable future.

At the time of publishing BC has passed the milestone of having administered over 3 million doses.

The vaccines currently approved for use by Health Canada were developed in the United States, India, and Europe; however, there is another vaccine using Canadian Technology presently in development closer to home.

Jennifer Gyoba (She/Her/Hers) is a Research Technician with Entos Pharmaceuticals, a company developing a COVID-19 vaccine in Edmonton, Alberta.

What does Entos Pharmaceuticals do and what does your work there entail?

The Technical: Entos Pharmaceuticals is a genetic medicine delivery company that created the Fusogenix Platform, a Proteolipid Vehicle (PLV) that can deliver protein, mRNA, siRNA, miRNA, or DNA to the body.

In Short:  We package up genetic medical treatments into these tiny lipid and protein shells which can then be injected, very much like a vaccine.

I am part of the PLV formulation team. This means that I manufacture the nucleic-acid load (DNA, RNA, protein) into our Fusogenix proteolipids. I also test the PLVs for their efficacy, safety, and quality.

What illnesses could this technology be used to treat?

Our technology can be used to treat many genetically based illnesses. If the abnormal gene or protein has been identified and sequenced, we can develop a genetic therapy to package and deliver to the cells.

For example, we have so far focused on oncology, aging, and COVID-19.

Could this technology have applications in the treatment of occupational diseases such as respiratory illnesses, cancers like asbestosis or mesothelioma,  or infectious diseases like HIV and tuberculosis?

Yes, if we have identified the abnormal gene or protein for the occupational disease, then we can manufacture a customized genetic therapy to counteract these changes to treat the disease.

However, this requires a lot of research and development, to ensure our drug is safe and effective.

How is the Entos COVID-19 vaccine different from those available today?

The Covigenix VAX-001 vaccine is a DNA vaccine, which differs from the Pfizer and Moderna mRNA vaccines.

They work similarly by initiating an immune response to create spike protein, but a DNA vaccine allows for us to store the vaccine in the fridge (compared to -80°C) and is more stable at room temperature.

We recently wrapped up our Wellness in the Workplace event; is there anything you do to address your mental health while at work/home during these trying times?

Trying to balance my work and addressing my mental health has been the most difficult part of the pandemic for me.

My anxiety has gotten progressively worse since March 2020, and what helps me the most is regular therapy sessions, exercise, and rest.

Given some of the challenges at work and home over the last year, what are three things you feel grateful for?

I am extremely grateful for my partner, Conrad, who has supported me and helped me through one of the most stressful years of my life.

I am also grateful for my Dad, Stepmom, brother and friends for love and support.

I would also like to thank my Nintendo Switch, I’m grateful for the many hours of entertainment it has provided me over the last year and a bit!

Conclusion

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed how many of us conduct our work, and in some cases shifted the very scope of the work we do.

Canadian Technology like the Entos Covigenix vaccine is currently in Phase I trials and is set to be easier to distribute because it is more stable at room temperature and can be stored at much warmer temperatures than the approved mRNA vaccines.

The technologies being applied by Entos Pharmaceuticals have wide ranging applications for the treatment of diseases such as cancers and illnesses such as aging; these technologies may also have applications in treating occupational diseases with continued research.


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