In this illustration provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in January 2020 shows the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV). THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-CDC via AP, File

Canadian research officials return from Geneva with plan to tackle coronavirus

The vast majority of confirmed Covid-19 cases are in China

Canada will aim $6.5 million at research on stopping the spread of the novel coronavirus, after co-ordinating with researchers around the world on tackling the outbreak.

Representatives of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) are returning from two days of talks with the international research community at a World Health Organization forum in Geneva, Switzerland.

There, more than 300 scientists and researchers mapped out a plan to answer the questions that linger about the virus that has killed more than 1,000 people, and agreed on a set of research priorities.

Chinese researchers participated remotely, and their message was that research should be focused on keeping people alive.

“That’s a good lens, because this is a rapid emergency response,” said Charu Kaushic, scientific director of CIHR’s Institute of Infection and Immunity, from her hotel room in Geneva. Kaushic is also a professor at McMaster University in Hamilton.

That could mean developing medical therapies or a vaccine in the long term. China, where the virus was first detected and where most of its victims live, is already testing dozens of potential drug treatments.

In the meantime though, researchers will be tailoring their studies to focus on infection prevention, quarantine protocols, personal protection measures, and other ways to keep the virus at bay. The WHO aims to study not only possible vaccines and therapies, but also the effectiveness of the public-health response and the social impact the disease has inflicted on the world.

The novel coronavirus has so far infected more than 45,000 people.

CIHR and several other Canadian research bodies have pulled together $6.5 million to hand out as research grants for science on the outbreak, and expect more money to be forthcoming as they continue negotiations with the federal government.

The group put out a call for research proposals Monday, and Kaushic said she will spend the next 24 hours refining applications so they align with the World Health Organization’s priorities.

The institute has suggested researchers look at everything from medical interventions to the spread of fear and discrimination caused by the virus.

The applications for the Canadian funding will be evaluated as quickly as possible, with the hope that researchers will be able to get to work before the end of the month.

An unusual requirement will be placed on the winning grant recipients: they’ll be expected to attend meetings with other global researchers to continue the co-ordinated approach to fighting the virus.

“This outbreak is a test of solidarity — political, financial and scientific,” said WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in a statement Wednesday.

“We need to come together to fight a common enemy that does not respect borders, ensure that we have the resources necessary to bring this outbreak to an end and bring our best science to the forefront to find shared answers to shared problems.”

The international community will come together again in several months to see if there are any research gaps.

While the vast majority of confirmed Covid-19 cases are in China, the research community agreed the world must be prepared for the outbreak to overflow the country’s borders.

“We don’t know how this is going to play out, which is why we can’t stop at this point,” Kaushic said. “We have to continue with the worst-case scenario.”

Laura Osman, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Blue ribbons popping up along streets in Abbotsford in praise of B.C. healthcare workers

Healthcare worker’s family starts local trend of morale support

Abbotsford Agrifair’s 2020 event still in the works

Fair will respect COVID-19 health directives, but continuing plans in hope ban will be lifted

Man sentenced for setting apartment barbecue on fire in Abbotsford

Michael Rodden climbed to second-storey balcony in March 2019

Public urged to continue donating blood during pandemic

Upcoming donor clinics in Abbotsford and Mission

120 more recreation staff laid off by City of Abbotsford

Job cuts from closure of public facilities, city will re-hire after health emergency passes

B.C. is seeing the highest rate of COVID-19 recovery in Canada, and there’s a few reasons why

British Columbia was one of the first to see rise in COVID-19 cases, and has also switched up testing

B.C. Ferries passengers staying away, as asked, during COVID-19 pandemic

Ferry corporation says ridership down 70-80 per cent over the last week and a half

Sewers stitch masks to free up supplies for front-line health-care workers

“We have little old ladies sewing up a storm,” said Joan Davis

Experts weigh in on best handling of groceries during COVID-19 pandemic

Study suggests the virus can live for up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to three days on plastic

COVID-19 world update: Enforceable quarantine in NYC?; France orders 1 billion masks

Spain warns EU’s future at stake; New York governor calls Trump’s idea ‘federal declaration of war

Earth Hour 2020 kicks off online Saturday night

Action moves online due to COVID-19

B.C. COVID-19 cases rise 92 to 884, one more death, 81 in care

Outbreak action underway in 12 long-term care homes

B.C. veterinarians want to smooth the fur of COVID-19-worried pet owners

Vets expect to continue giving your fur buddies the help they need while social distancing

B.C. VIEWS: Small businesses need our help

Just as integral in neighbourhoods in Vancouver and Surrey as they are in Prince George or Kelowna

Most Read