The University of Manitoba’s department of medical microbiology was recently awarded almost $600,000 from the Canadian Institute of Health Research and Research Manitoba to work on developing a vaccine for COVID-19. The federal funding is part of a $1.1 billion strategy for medical research to fight COVID-19 that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced in April, involving research into therapies and vaccines that could lead to clinical trials.
Xiao-Jian Yao, MD, MSc, PhD, one of the university’s researchers, works around the clock since the advent of COVID-19 reporting, “I’ve been working for more than two months with no weekend…. Sometimes I work in the night.” Driving forward to do his part to help combat the virus, Yao has been pursuing viruses like HIV and H5N1, as well as COVID-19 vaccine candidates with a focus more recently on investigating their ability to produce immunity responses in mice, reports CBC. The hope is to progress to human-based clinical trials. Yao has been focusing more attention, for obvious reasons, centering on COVID-19 vaccines.
Other research is cranking along at University of Manitoba including Dr. Ryan Zarychanski, a hematologist and critical care physician working with Cancer Care Manitoba. In addition to teaching there, he is leading a clinical trial that recently received a $700,000 injection of financial support from the province.
The team is investigating several therapies, including hydroxychloroquine which is already approved by Health Canada to treat malaria, rheumatoid arthritis, and lupus, to assess if it can prevent COVID-19 once a patient has been exposed. He is also working on a new trial to discover if another drug, a repurposed drug thinner, will hopefully reduce clots, inflammation, and any organ damage, reported Dr. Zarychanski in CBC.
Manitoba’s Brad Pickering received over $400,000 from the federal government and Research Manitoba to look into developing portable diagnostics for COVID-19 that can be used anywhere from a care home to the patient bedside. Head of special pathogens at the National Centre for Foreign Animal Disease at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, he is developing what is reported as “an easy to use, battery-operated diagnostic tool.”
Xiao-Jian Yao, MD, MSc, PhD, University of Manitoba
Dr. Ryan Zarychanski, MD, MSc, FRCPC, a hematologist and critical care physician working with Cancer Care Manitoba
Brad Pickering, PhD, Head of special pathogens at the National Centre for Foreign Animal Disease at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency