VANCOUVER -- As part of the federal government’s investment in domestic vaccine capability, a Vancouver company is taking their $25.1 million allotment to build a massive manufacturing facility in the Lower Mainland.

South Vancouver-based Precision Nanosystems is building a $50.2 million biomanufacturing centre that could produce up to 240 million doses of vaccine every year in the 40,000 square foot facility. It's still assessing possible locations.

Its estimated completion date is March 2023, but the company’s CEO says the investment is important on a number of levels.

"It's an investment in pandemic preparedness, an investment in the future, an investment in these critical technologies that are really the technologies of the future,” said James Taylor in a Zoom interview. “What we’re focussed on is the medium- to long-term pandemic responsiveness as well as developing capabilities and capacity around genetic medicine itself, so our facility will be able to utilize for programs that are involved in cancer, infectious diseases, rare diseases.”

The same kind of messenger RNA technology that companies like Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna have developed to quickly create and manufacture their successful COVID-19 vaccines is the same idea behind many local companies like Precision Nanosystems. Many members of the scientific community believe such genetic medicines that treat diseases at the molecular level are on the cusp of revolutionizing medicine.

"As long as you know how to create those instructions -- that genetic code you need to convince your body to create that target -- you can design an mRNA vaccine against any antigen," said Nicole Basta, an associate professor of epidemiology at McGill told the Canadian Press.

Vancouver-based Acuitas Therapeutics developed a lipid nanoparticle to protect the delicate messenger RNA strands that can be broken down by the body.

Taylor described the Lower Mainland as a global hub in nano-medicines, pointing out the growing industry is deeply intertwined with researchers, scientists and experts working across borders on shared projects; Precision Nanosystems alone works with more than 160 other companies around the world.

“This past a year has really shone a light on the importance of science and technology to solve deep problems globally,” he said. “It's important for us, as Canadians, to be strong participants in the development and innovation.”