Advanced LNP RNA Vaccines Engineered with Next-Generation designs to Enhance pandemic Readiness

CIEBH announcement image featuring Dr. Anna Blakney and team of researchers in white lab coats at UBC
Dr. Anna Blakney and her team in the lab

AVENGER will establish a national RNA vaccine platform so that Canada can rapidly develop and manufacture next-generation vaccines — for everything from viruses to superbug bacteria — in less than 100 days.

The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated the tremendous potential of RNA vaccines that rely on lipid nanoparticles (LNPs), a drug delivery technology pioneered by UBC professor Dr. Pieter Cullis and UBC spin-off companies. Through AVENGER, Dr. Cullis and a team of CIEBH researchers will build on this legacy to establish Canada as a global leader in next-generation RNA LNP vaccines that promise to transform the health of Canadians and people around the world.

AVENGER will build out domestic R&D and biomanufacturing capacity to establish an end-to-end RNA vaccine pipeline that can mount a 100-day response to future pandemics and emerging health threats. The AVENGER team will create a library of vaccine formulations that can be custom designed and rapidly deployed against a range of pathogen types, with an immediate focus on developing a vaccine for anti-microbial resistant (AMR) bacteria for phase-1 clinical trials.

With the near limitless potential of RNA-based vaccines and therapies, the platform will further pave the way for innovative drugs to treat previously incurable diseases like cancer, diabetes, dementia and more. The researchers will advance several next-generation vaccine technologies, such as self-amplifying RNA, which allows for lower doses while being more scalable and equally safe. They will also tailor vaccines specifically for older adults whose immune systems can make it harder to respond to vaccines.

Addressing social factors are key to the adoption of new vaccines, so the AVENGER team will collaborate with the Social Sciences and Humanities (SSH) Consortium to study issues such as vaccine hesitancy. They will also leverage the Advanced Therapeutics Manufacturing Facility (ATMF) in BC, a new 25,000+ square foot biomanufacturing space to produce LNP RNA vaccines and other medicines.

The project is led by Dr. Pieter Cullis, a world-renowned biochemist recognized globally for his work on LNPs and contributions to the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, and Dr. Anna Blakney, a self-amplifying RNA expert with experience working on an saRNA vaccine that went to human trials. Together with a team of world-leading immunologists, vaccinologists, biochemists, microbiologists and industry partners, they will firmly establish Canada as a LNP RNA leader.

Project directors:

Dr. Pieter Cullis (Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, UBC), Dr. Anna Blakney (School of Biomedical Engineering, Michael Smith Laboratories, UBC)

Team members:

  • Shashi Gujar (Dalhousie University)
  • Ken Harder (The University of British Columbia)
  • Susan Howlett (Dalhousie University)
  • Jayachandran Kizhakkedathu (The University of British Columbia)
  • Amy Lee,  (Simon Fraser University)
  • Kelly McNagny (The University of British Columbia)
  • Fabio Rossi (The University of British Columbia)
  • James Russell (The University of British Columbia)
  • Manish Sadarangani (The University of British Columbia)
  • Natalie Strynadka (The University of British Columbia)
  • Aneesh Thakur (VIDO, University of Saskatchewan)


  • Cytiva 
  • Dalhousie University 
  • Evonik 
  • Genome BC 
  • GSK 
  • Integrated Nanotherapeutics 
  • NanoStar Pharmaceuticals 
  • NanoVation Therapeutics 
  • Northern RNA 
  • Simon Fraser University 
  • Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization (VIDO), University of Saskatchewan 

Federal funding:

  • Canada Biomedical Research Fund Award: $18.65 million
  • Biosciences Research Infrastructure Fund Award: $12.76 million

This initiative was undertaken thanks in part to funding from the Canada Biomedical Research Fund and the Biosciences Research Infrastructure Fund.