The Canadian federal government continues to direct funds to researchers across the nation committing an additional $20 million in research grants into the COVID-19 outbreak after reporting earlier a $7 million in February. Almost $7 million of this funding is reaching the far west to research centers British Columbia (BC) including the University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University, the University of the Fraser Valley, and Royal Roads University. All have had projects selected for grants of up to two-years and up to $1 million for medical countermeasures and $500,000 for social and policy countermeasures.
Reviewing Vaccine Drug Targets
UBC Dr. Srinivas Murthy, associate professor in pediatrics, leads a project in search of a treatment. He reports that the funding targeting networks in BC finds “a vibrant community” with considerable “knowledge sharing.” He is organizing randomized clinical trials in this part of Canada for patients currently infected with COVID-19 to see which medication may work best to combat the rapidly spreading virus. Murthy reports “The first drug we’re testing is a medication that we use for HIV, which is the virus that causes AIDS so it’s a medication that we’ve had for 20 years now and its been proven very safe, and a bunch of people have thought that it would be effective against coronavirus.”
The targeted therapy works in a lab environment, but the BC-based preclinical researchers don’t know if it will work in a human-based study; hence the importance of studying this now. If studies go well, they will move to regulatory approvals.
Social Science Efforts
Cindy Jardine with University of the Fraser Valley and Yue Qian at UBC are social scientists and recipients of the funds. Quian will assess how people and communities react to and cope mentally with quarantine by studying a group of people impacted by the quarantine in the city of Wuhan, which was locked down since January 23, 2020. A city of 11 million and the epicenter of the outbreak, the shutdown is possibly the largest one of its kind in human history. Quian is from Wuhan and her father still resides there alone.
Jardine studies the role of travel in the transmission of COVID-19 with a focus on individuals returning to country of origin and what kind of communication is required to appropriately discuss risk, reports the Canadian Broadcast Corporation (CBC).
Dr. Srinivas Murthy, associate professor in pediatrics, University of British Columbia
Cindy Jardine, University of Fraser Valley
Yue Qian, Sociologist, University of British Columbia