A treatment for COVID-19 will be found, reassures UM virologist
A feature story in the Winnipeg Free Press on Monday, March 30, 2020, by Danielle Da Silva profiled the work of UM virologist Dr. Xiaojian Yao.
Dr. Yao is director of the UM Laboratory of Molecular Human Retrovirology, and says he is determined to contribute research that would help contain, treat and control the highly contagious COVID-19 virus.
The story notes that Dr. Yao is the lead investigator of a research team at the University of Manitoba studying a potential vaccine for COVID-19, one of six proposals selected by the federal government this month to receive funding specifically for vaccine research, with $326,578 coming from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and $270,550 from Research Manitoba.
Yao says the technology they will trial with the novel coronavirus is unique to the U of M and represents a significant contribution to the overall body of research on COVID-19.
A molecule of the virus — called the spike protein — is key to infecting a host cell and is the main target of the host’s immune responses. Previous studies into SARS have shown the receptor binding domain of that virus has multiple epitopes (a molecule fragment) that produce potent neutralizing antibodies.
The antibody can bind to SARS and interfere with its ability to infect a cell. The question is whether the receptor binding domain of COVID-19 will behave similarly and produce an immune response.
Dr. Yao made a point of wanting to reassure the public, noting that the work of researchers around the globe, which is being accelerated by increased government funding, means a treatment will be found.
Research at the University of Manitoba is partially supported by funding from the Government of Canada Research Support Fund.