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Ottawa calls upon universities to contribute to the fight against COVID-19

The federal government is asking Canadian universities to provide critical supplies and manufacturing solutions to help fight the pandemic.


On Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau reiterated calls made over the weekend by Minister of Science, Innovation and Industry Navdeep Bains to mobilize the resources and expertise of Canada’s postsecondary institutions in the fight against COVID-19.

“Their laboratories have the resources and the experts to be part of this great fight. We asked them to identify the equipment they have, the masks and the respirators they have. At the same time we are looking at innovative solutions,” said the Prime Minister during his daily press conference.

A similar call has also been made to Canada’s manufacturers to assist the government in meeting the need for medical supplies. Products sought by the federal government include gloves, masks and surgical gowns, sanitizers, wipes, ventilators and other medical equipment and supplies.

Several institutions have been approached by Health Canada regarding the use of their 3D printers to produce medical devices, components or supplies, such as goggles, disposable tubing sets and ancillary ventilation components. Minister Baines is also seeking innovative manufacturing solutions that could help officials respond to possible shortages of critical equipment.

Several universities have already answered the call from the federal government –including Carleton, McGill, McMaster and Saint Mary’s – to supply or donate equipment from their now-closed laboratories.

The Research Institute of the McGill University Health Center and the Montreal General Hospital have launched a contest to find new ventilator designs. Contestants are being asked to design a simple and easy-to-manufacture ventilator, with a $200,000 cash prize for the best design.

University of Ottawa’s Makerspace group designed face shields for medical professionals and  is working on the first prototype of a ventilator.

A company founded by two University of Toronto researchers will be manufacturing a portable ventilator that could help Canadian patients with COVID-19. They will manufacture a portable, battery-powered intensive care unit that has a ventilator and can monitor vital signs.

The Canadian government is asking universities or suppliers to visit this page if they can help.

Also, as part of this mass mobilization, the federal government earlier announced $52 million in funding distributed through the research granting agencies for 96 research projects. Researchers will focus on developing and implementing measures to rapidly detect, manage and reduce the transmission of COVID-19 to help tackle the spread of the virus in Canada and around the world.

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