Mobilizing new ways of thinking

Sanofi Pasteur supporting groundbreaking research at York

Vaccine manufacturers are facing many challenges: the increasing cost of developing vaccines, the need to move rapidly from development and production of vaccines to mass use in target populations; and the complexity of understanding how infectious disease is transmitted, in an increasingly interconnected world.

A major new research initiative based in the Faculty of Science at York University will develop mathematical techniques to identify who among us is most susceptible to infectious diseases and enable manufacturers to produce cost-effective vaccines that can be deployed quickly. The research is also expected to better position Canada to respond rapidly to emerging public health issues such as Zika and ebola outbreaks.

The $2.6-million NSERC/Sanofi Industrial Research Chair in Vaccine Mathematics, Modelling and Manufacturing was awarded to York University Distinguished Research Professor Jianhong Wu.  A professor in the Department of Mathematics & Statistics in the Faculty of Science, Wu will lead a large team of York professors, postdoctoral fellows and graduate students. The other team members who are part of this initiative are Mathematics and Statistics Professors Jane Heffernan, Neal Madras, Xin Gao, Michael Chen, Huaxiong Huang and Helene Massam.

Sanofi Pasteur, which has previously collaborated with York on a number of major projects related to infectious disease modelling, will invest $1.5 million over five years. The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) will provide $1 million through its Industrial Research Chair program, established to help universities build on existing strengths in areas of interest to industry. The remainder will be contributed by York University through various supports.

“Establishing the NSERC/Sanofi Industrial Research Chair at York University will not only accelerate frontline research and support Canadian industry, but also help improve the wellbeing of people around the globe,” says Ray Jayawardhana, dean of the Faculty of Science. “It is yet another example of the exciting research initiatives in York’s Faculty of Science that engage our faculty members and students with partners in the public and private sectors to enhance value and maximize impact.”

“The dedicated resources this collaboration brings will enable us to focus on infectious diseases that are critically important to the health of Canadians,” says Jianhong. “With access to clinical trial data and vaccine efficacy data from both public agencies and the private sector, we will use mathematical modelling to inform the most efficient and cost-effective ways to immunize the public against these diseases.”

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