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Ottawa injects $27M into COVID-19 research

The federal government is funding research teams to study COVID-19, while the Tri-Agencies announced they will reimburse some fees incurred due to coronavirus-related travel cancellations.


Editor’s note: See the latest updates below.

To prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, the federal government has provided nearly $27 million in funding to dozens of Canadian teams to develop tools and resources to fight the deadly disease. The work of these researchers will focus primarily on speeding up the development of tests, and measures to contain the global COVID-19 outbreak.

This rapid research funding program, managed by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), will be used to find clinical and public health responses, develop and evaluate diagnostic tools and vaccines, and create strategies to deal with misinformation, stigma and fear.

Patty Hajdu, minister of health, and Navdeep Bains, minister of innovation, science and industry, made the announcement on March 6 in Montreal along with Chief Public Health Officer of Canada, Theresa Tam. Researchers and doctors from various institutions, including more than 15 Canadian universities, will participate in the research.

Federal ministers Patty Hajdu, Navdeep Bains, Mélanie Joly and Jean-Yves Duclos, along with representatives from Canadian universities and the research-funding agencies, at the rapid research funding meeting in Montreal. Photo: NSERC Twitter

Ottawa is providing the funding for this research through the CIHR, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, the Canada Research Coordinating Committee through the New Frontiers in Research Fund, the International Development Centre and Genome Canada.

Details about the rapid research fund program and the funded projects can be found on the federal government’s website.

Reimbursement of travel expenses

That same day, the Tri-Agencies also announced that they will reimburse non-refundable travel fees paid for by Tri-Agency funding and incurred by researchers due to travel cancellations related to the COVID-19 outbreak. “Individuals may decide to cancel trips as a result of various considerations and factors such as cancelled conferences, travel advisories (including those from Health Canada and Global Affairs Canada), or personal choice due to health or other concerns,” reads the press release.

Update: March 11

Prime Minister Trudeau announced this morning a more than $1-billion COVID-19 Response Fund, which includes various new measures to combat the novel coronavirus. Included in the plan is additional funding of $275 million — on top of the $27 million announced on Friday — to support the research and development of medical countermeasures, including antivirals, vaccine development and support for clinical trials.

Update no. 2: March 11

Late this morning, Laurentian University announced that, as a precaution against the spread of COVID-19, all classes are suspended as of 12:00 p.m. today. As of tomorrow, March 12, “all classes will now be moved to online delivery until further notice.” This is the first public Canadian university to suspend classes due to the coronavirus.

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