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Adolf Ng

UM researchers receive federal and provincial funding for COVID-19 projects

March 20, 2020 — 

Three UM researchers have received federal funding for projects directly related to COVID-19, including one that looks at a promising vaccine.

On March 11, 2020, the Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, outlined an investment of $275 million to enhance Canada’s capacity in research and development, as part of Canada’s COVID-19 response. The Honourable Patty Hajdu, Canada’s Minister of Health, yesterday announced the next rollout of $25 million, allowing the Government of Canada, through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, to rapidly double the number of COVID-19 research projects funded, adding 49 new projects to the 47 projects previously announced.

Research Manitoba is providing funding three of the projects; with CIHR providing partial support to two of the projects.

Among these newly funded projects is a program by Dr. Adolf Ng in supply chain management at the Asper School of Business. His research received $258,900 from Research Manitoba to focus on an issue faced by many Canadians who are discouraged by empty grocery store shelves.

Ng is looking to develop effective logistical strategies and planning in tackling the social impacts caused by a pandemic like COVID-19. He is doing studies in both China (including Wuhan) and Canada, comparing how logistical systems differ, with one objective being to identify ways to transfer effective logistical strategies and solutions to cities and countries under diversified geographical and cultural contexts, especially those with relatively weak health systems.

Xiao-Jian Yao

Another project funded today is for a team of researchers led by Dr. Xiao-Jian Yao in the department of medical microbiology and infectious diseases at the Rady Faculty of Health Sciences. The team received $597,128  in total ($326,578 from CIHR and $270,550 from Research Manitoba) to look specifically at the development of a vaccine that targets COVID-19 by using a technology platform patented by UM.

The project will examine a receptor-binding domain (RBD) within the COVID-19 virus is essential for the infection of COVID-19. Previous studies have demonstrated that the RBD of the SARS virus includes fragments of molecules called epitopes that produce antibodies and interfere with the SARS virus’s ability to infect a cell. These findings suggest that RBD of COVID-19 is an ideal anti-COVID-19 vaccine candidate and could also be used in a vaccine.

The third project is being conducted by Bradley Pickering, an assistant professor in the department of medical microbiology and infectious diseases and the Canadian Centre for Human and Animal Health. His project involves the use of Clustered Regularly Interspersed Short Palindromic Repeats (CRISPR) based diagnostics to detect SARS-CoV-2 at the point-of-need, such as at the bedside, passenger screening, or returning travellers who may have been exposed.

“We recently demonstrated that CRISPR-based diagnostics is reliable, sensitive and can be used to detect Ebola virus and Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever virus,” says Pickering. His team is receiving $270,550 from Research Manitoba and $140,270 from CIHR for their research.

“The outbreak of COVID-19 evolves quickly, and protecting the health of Canadians is our priority,” said the Honourable Patty Hajdu, Minister of Health, Government of Canada. “The additional teams of researchers receiving funding will help Canada quickly generate the evidence we need to contribute to the global understanding of the COVID-19 illness. Their essential work will contribute to the development of effective vaccines, diagnostics, treatments, and public health responses.”

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