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Canadian companies stepped up to help provide much of the protective equipment and supplies needed to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.Supplied

When COVID-19 surged into Canada early last year, it took just 19 days after the start of project negotiations for the government’s Strategic Innovation Fund (SIF) to make its first investment in a company working to combat the pandemic.

The SIF was authorized to invest $792-million under the Medical Countermeasures (MCM) initiative to fund clinical trials and scale up manufacturing capacity to discover vaccines and treatments and improve Canada’s long-term pandemic preparedness.

The initiative saw thousands of Canadian companies come forward with offers to help. Some quickly focused on vaccine and treatment research while others adapted production lines to produce pandemic supplies ranging from hand sanitizer to face masks and medical gowns.

According to the SIF, the first investment of $175.6-million announced in May last year was made in British Columbia-based Abcellera Biologics as part of a $287-million project to enable the rapid discovery of antibody therapies to treat and prevent COVID-19 and to establish a Good Manufacturing Practice antibody production facility for Canada’s long-term emergency preparedness.

In March this year, on the first anniversary of the launch of the MCM initiative, François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, said more than 6,500 companies had answered the government’s call to action.

He noted that the initiative resulted in Canada going from sourcing virtually no personal protective equipment (PPE) domestically before the pandemic to producing approximately 40 per cent of the PPE that was needed.

For example, in Oshawa, Ontario, the General Motors Canada plant stepped in to fill a government order for 10 million face masks, while underwear maker Stanfield’s and industrial house wrap producer Intertape Polymer Group teamed up to produce medical gowns.

In Calgary, Fluid Energy Group retooled its chemical production line to produce more than 100,000 litres of sanitizer a day. Irving Oil in Saint John, New Brunswick, also jumped in to manufacture sanitizer, and in Kitchener, Ontario, auto parts supplier Mitchell Plastics retooled so that it could manufacture face shields.

Advertising feature produced by Randall Anthony Communications. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved.