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

Dragon boaters being sought for a new team in Ladysmith

Men and women just need to bring along their enthusiasm and dedication

Police encourage the public to register their bicycles

It helps to have pictures, make and model in the recovery process from thefts

UPDATED with VIDEO and PHOTOS: One person treated for minor burns in Crofton fire Monday morning

Firefighters were called out at 7 a.m. to a blaze at the Twin Gables Motel

Public engagement on North Cowichan forest reserve begins this month

Consulting firm presents engagement plan at North Cowichan council meeting

SD79 finalizes $106-million budget for 2019-20

$2.1-million increase in revenue from previous year

UPDATE: Two killed in fiery collision on Highway 1 near Revelstoke

The Trans Canada Highway was closed for four hours

Father, two children killed after car goes over embankment on B.C. highway

The single vehicle crash occured near Kamloops on Highway 5A

Comox Valley cat rescue organization hit by camera theft

“Someone is taking from an organization trying to help cats who are surviving in the wild.”

Trout ‘doing quite well’ at Kootenay hatchery after otters, who ate 150 fish, relocated

River otters had been pillaging a moat outside the facility for months, gobbling up about 150 trout

VIDEO: Illicit drug overdoses killed 981 in B.C. in 2019, down 38%

Chief coroner says figures were down about a third in the province’s fourth year of the opioid crisis

Trudeau revisits blackface embarrassment during Black History Month

Photos and a video of Trudeau wearing makeup to darken his skin surfaced during last fall’s election campaign

Most Read