Government of Canada invests $27M in coronavirus research – Details of the funded projects 


[ News release ]

To contribute to global efforts to address the 2019 Novel Coronavirus outbreak, on February 10, 2020, the Government of Canada launched a rapid research funding competition. Canada’s researchers were quick to respond, submitting hundreds of applications in just a week. Many other researchers volunteered their expertise to peer review the applications received so that the funding competition could be completed in record time. The result is that the Government has been able to fund 47 research projects that will provide new evidence on how to address COVID-19.

The Government of Canada is providing the funding for this research through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), the Canada Research Coordinating Committee (CRCC) through the New Frontiers in Research Fund (NFRF), the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), and Genome Canada (GC).

  • CIHR is contributing $16.4M
  • NSERC is contributing $700,000
  • SSHRC is contributing $900,000
  • CRCC through NFRF is providing $7M
  • IDRC is providing $1.5M to researchers and/or collaborators from research institutions based in low- and middle-income countries
  • Genome Canada is contributing $250,000

The total investment for this research is $26.8M.

The investment will support 47 projects across two research areas to ensure a balanced research response:

  • Medical countermeasures research, e.g., transmission and zoonotic source of the 2019-nCov, development and evaluation of diagnostic tools for early case detection and surveillance, and development and evaluation of candidate vaccines, among other areas; and
  • Social and policy countermeasures research, e.g., examining how individuals and communities understand and react to the disease, and developing strategies to combat misinformation, stigma, and fear, among other areas. 

Medical Counter measures

Clinical management

Researcher Title Description Amount invested
Murthy, Srinivas University of British Columbia COVID-19: Improving the Evidence to Treat an Emerging Infection Through Observational Studies and a Randomized Trial The clinical management of COVID-19 remains unclear. First, we do not know what the disease is yet; we are still learning a great deal about what it causes in humans. We do not know what treatments to give, what risk factors are present for severe disease, and how long people are sick. We are proposing a national observational study of hospitalized patients with confirmed COVID-19, with an embedded randomized clinical trial of an antiviral agent. The observational study will build on work that we have been doing for  the past four years, with pre-established protocols and data collection infrastructure just for this purpose. The randomized clinical trial will be with global collaborators to make sure that Canadian patients inform the world, and vice versa, about how to best treat this new disease. Alongside this, we will conduct surveys of clinicians, researchers, and the public about how they understand this new outbreak, how they feel about participating in research during a major outbreak, and what should be done differently; all of which will inform our clinical studies. Finally, we have been asked by the WHO to conduct a formal guideline for the management of COVID-19, which we will perform as data begins to emerge from the clinical trials that are ongoing. All of these proposals, put together, create a suite of approaches to better understanding and managing a new infection. Our team is large and diverse, and has been prepared for this outbreak for a number of years, and are ready to help Canadians respond in an evidence-informed way. $954,936
Kelvin, David J Dalhousie University (Nova Scotia) Identification of biomarkers that predict severity of COVID-19 patients The outbreak of the new coronavirus in Wuhan, China has infected over 75,000 people and has caused close to 2,000 deaths. One of the major problems with this outbreak is that emergency rooms, hospitals and ICU wards are overwhelmed with patients. In an effort to find a test for rapidly determining who should be admitted to the hospital and who should be placed in ICU, we have undertaken an international study to find a set of biomarkers that can be used to help Emergency Room doctors to make decisions on whether a patient will become severe. We have established an international team based in China, Vietnam, Spain, Italy, Mozambique, Sudan, Ethiopia, Egypt, Morocco, Cote D' Ivoire and Canada. This team will examine patients peripheral blood for biomarkers that predict the course of disease as mild or severe. The results of the study will be used to make a device that can be used in any situation and rapidly give results to predict the course of coronavirus infections. $1,000,000
Jha, Prabhat Unity Health Toronto Acute Respiratory Mortality Surveillance (ARMS) for Coronavirus Infection (COVID-19): A globally relevant technology to strengthen mortality surveillance for acute respiratory deaths in many countries lacking complete medical certification of death The current global infectious threat, COVID-19, has not yet been widely detected in sub-Saharan Africa or other low income countries in Asia. It is almost inevitable that it will reach those places. While unusual spikes in infection-related deaths can register quickly in higher income countries and in China, they can go unrecognized for weeks or months in low-income settings where even very ill people do not go to a hospital, infecting others. Detecting a mortality signal is important and may be the first step in recognizing a serious outbreak. We propose to build on our extensive experience using verbal autopsy (VA) in the long-running Indian Million Death Study, and ongoing studies in China, Hong Kong, Ethiopia and Sierra Leone to develop an enhanced verbal autopsy module to identify deaths from COVID-19. This will serve as a model for the next novel pathogen-as near as possible to real time in settings without routine medical certification of death. We will test three hypotheses:  #1 An "Acute Respiratory Mortality Surveillance" (ARMS) module can be added quickly to the WHO VA instrument and validated against hospitalized cases and deaths (paired with epidemiological information and machine learning) to distinguish COVID-19 from other causes of respiratory deaths. #2 Early deployment of ARMS in China, Hong Kong, India, Sierra Leone, and Ethiopia will help establish baseline distributions of usual acute respiratory deaths, as a comparator for COVID-19 deaths, and to inform modelling.  #3 Effective knowledge translation of an open-source, widely-available ARMS module will improve the global response to COVID-19, particularly in the lowest income countries and help to improve mortality assessments for any subsequent COVID-19 waves. A successful ARMS will contribute to stopping the current outbreak and add novel surveillance tools. All materials and results will be made available globally to ensure the broadest use. $956,320


Researcher Title Description Amount invested
Berezovski, Maxim University of Ottawa Development of a rapid point-of-care diagnostic test for COVID-19 A novel zoonotic coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) has recently been identified in patients with an acute and potentially fatal respiratory disease (COVID-19). This virus is genetically similar to SARS and MERS coronaviruses. The outbreak started in the city of Wuhan (China) and then soon turned into a pandemic with over 60,000 clinical cases and at least 1,500 fatalities. Cases in healthcare workers and other close contacts indicate human-to-human transmission. Rapid, simple and specific point-of-care diagnostic tests are urgently needed for the quick isolation of those infected. To address the issue, we have assembled a team of specialists in chemistry, infectious diseases, and clinical diagnostics. We propose to develop rapid point-of-care tests based on aptamer-assisted graphene oxide (AptaGO) and paper enzyme-linked aptamer assays (p-ELAA) for SARS-CoV-2 and its surrogate (HCoV-229E), which is a Containment Level 2 (CL-2) pathogen. The aptamer-based sensors can rapidly (<3 minutes) and specifically bind to the virus proteins with a measurable color/fluorescence change. In addition, AptaGO-based a low-cost (<$1 per test) platform while being ultrasensitive (protein equivalent of <100 virions), thus making them ideal for the proposed use. The tests will be developed in liquid- and paper-based formats: In the liquid format, a few drops of AptaGO will be added to the liquid sample, and the signal read by a fluorescence reader, revealing the presence of SARS-CoV-2 proteins/particles and their concentration. In the paper format, the sample will flow along a paper strip via capillary action (similar to a pregnancy test) and target virus proteins/particles will bind to the aptamers producing a visible line. It is a high-impact and high-reward project considering the devastation the virus has already produced globally with no clear signs of a slow-down. If successful, the developed virus-specific aptamers may be used in place of neutralizing antibodies to treat COVID-19. $398,000
Le, Xiaochun C University of Alberta Point-of-care diagnostics of COVID- 19 using isothermal amplification and CRISPR technology This research addresses the urgent need of rapid point-of-care diagnostics of COVID-19. The collaborative research is conducted by a multi-disciplinary team of virologists, chemists, infectious disease specialists, front-line practitioners, and public health researchers from the University of Alberta, Canadian Food Inspection Agency, and Wuhan Institute of Virology (China).  The immediate priority focuses on developing two complementary techniques to be performed on-site and in resource-limited settings, in support of rapid diagnosis of COVID-19. The diagnostic innovation takes advantage of the most recent advances in chemistry, molecular biology, genome technology, and nanotechnology. Chemical reactions required for efficient amplification and sensitive detection of the viral RNA take place in a single tube at a moderate temperature, simplifying the operation procedures. The specific reaction products are visible to the naked eyes, thus eliminating the need for any elaborate equipment. The first test reads color changes, with red color indicating negative and blue color indicating positive. Readout for the second test is color band on paper strips, similar to those of pregnancy tests, with two red bands indicating positive whereas a single control band indicating negative. The mid-term priority focuses on validating and evaluating the new diagnostic tests for field applications in the epidemic center of COVID-19. Our team members in Wuhan who currently perform the standard diagnostic tests will lead this effort. Once validated and approved, the new diagnostic tools will be used to support screening and diagnosis of COVID-19 at the community level. The mid-term objective also includes adapting the point-of-care diagnostics at other collaborating sites, e.g., Karachi (Pakistan) and Nairobi (Kenya). A longer-term priority of this research includes refining the new diagnostic tools to enable monitoring of mutational changes of the virus as it continues to evolve. $828,046
Pardee, Keith I
University of Toronto
Rapid, Low-cost Diagnostics and Deployable Surge Capacity for COVID- 19 The outbreak of the coronavirus, first identified in Wuhan, China, highlights the importance of the capacity for a rapid and nimble response to infectious disease.  As we have seen, the world in highly interconnected and outbreaks in one region quickly become global concerns. Diagnostics are a key tool in the fight against spread of the virus, allowing frontline responders to quickly triage patients. Over the past five years, our team has developed low-cost and de-centralized paper-based diagnostics that are simple to use and easy to distribute. During the Zika virus outbreak, we developed diagnostics within weeks and have since completed patient trials in Latin America showing performance equal to the gold standard CDC tests used in clinical labs (sensitivity equal qPCR test, 98.5% accuracy). These diagnostic, programmable by design, thus hold promise for managing future outbreaks. Seeking to contribute to the COVID-19 outbreak response, we have already begun the development of diagnostics for the virus and anticipate having validated tools within a month. Here we propose the following project to create a deployable diagnostic infrastructure for the virus: 1) A lab-in-a-box kit that can provide diagnostic surge capacity for COVID-19 (14,000 tests), 2) A package with the "pop-up capacity" to manufacture the diagnostics on-site for sustained response to the outbreak and 3) A point-of-need test for rapid screening of patients (e.g. cruise ships, airports). Such tools are important in Canada but are especially so in countries where health care systems do not have the resilience to handle a large outbreak. We have assembled a team of researchers from four countries with expertise in virology, diagnostics technologies and delivering impactful research outcomes. Our goal is a diagnostic platform capable of providing the capacity to respond to COVID-19 here in Canada or aboard, and the companion technologies, protocols and training to ensure effective deployment. $1,000,000
Pillai, Dylan R
University of Calgary
Development and implementation of rapid metagenomic sequencing coupled with isothermal amplification point of care testing for viral diagnostics Infectious pandemics or plagues have altered human history since the beginning of time. Today we face the threat of viral pandemics spreading through human populations disseminated fueled by the ease of international travel which has become commonplace. SARS, influenza, and now the 2109 novel coronavirus are examples of just a few of these pandemics. We must create novel tools that enable us to rapidly identify the virus and then develop a test that can reliably test for the virus in patients. The test has to be portable and taken to the bedside where patients are quarantined so that these individuals do not further transmit viruses in our hospitals and public places. $957,700
Langlois, Marc-Andre University of Ottawa Rapid Research Response to the 2019 Novel Coronavirus Outbreak: Development of Targeted Diagnostics, Therapeutics and Comparative Pathogenicity Assessment In 2019, the world has seen the emergence of a virus that causes pneumonia in humans, which has a high probability of resulting in complications that include acute respiratory distress syndrome and death in an estimated 0.2% to 5% of cases. Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is caused by a virus endemic in wild animals that has adapted itself to infect humans. The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the 2019 outbreak of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), which is now officially named SARS- CoV-2, a global health emergency. Currently, there is no effective antivirals against this virus. The virus is genetically similar to the 2003 Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome-related coronavirus (SARS) and shares many disease features with influenza virus infections. Our team will combine its multidisciplinary expertise to develop genetically engineered antibodies that can be used as therapeutics to limit the spread of the virus, as well as help identify the virus in patient samples. We will also develop a rapid genetic test for SARS-CoV-2 and measure the speed of genetic evolution of this virus compared to other coronaviruses that cause disease in humans such as SARS that caused the 2003 outbreak and the middle east respiratory syndrome virus (MERS). Finally, we will mass produce the surface viral protein to enable the development of a prototype nasal-spray vaccine. $999,999


Researcher Title Description Amount invested
Zhang, Haibo Unity Health Toronto Molecular and cellular therapies against COVID-19 using angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) An epidemic caused by a novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) has spread rapidly in China and 27 other countries. As of 15 February 2020, over 69,000 cases of COVID-19 have been reported, with 1,666 deaths. The enormous health, economic and social impact clearly make it paramount to better understand the pathogenesis of COVID-19, as no specific drugs are available to combat COVID- 19. To address this issue we have put together a world-class international research team of basic scientists and clinicians who have a track record of working together and have access to resources [SARS-CoV-2, cell and animal models, a candidate drug, biotech company, and patients (in China)]. This research proposal focuses on the role of angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) as a SARS-CoV-2 receptor to enter human body. We propose to do basic studies to examine the specific mechanisms involved, as well as to perform a clinical trial in COVID-19 patients in China using recombinant human ACE2 (rhACE2). $1,002,404
Lemieux, Joanne M University of Alberta Synthesis, Structural Studies and Evaluation of Inhibitors of the 3CL Protease of SARS- CoV-2 as Potential Drugs for Treating Infection The Wuhan coronavirus, formally known as SARS-CoV-2, is viewed as a global health emergency since its 1st appearance in China in Dec 2019. Coronaviruses are spread through close contact from coughs & sneezes, but may also spread from animals, feces or contaminated surfaces. As of Feb 2020, > 44,730 people are infected in China and >1114 have died (97 in a single day). Seven cases have been reported in Canada. This disease, Covid-19, could become a pandemic unless appropriate measures or cures are found. In past work on a similar coronavirus from China, Severe Acute Respiratory Virus (SARS) prevalent in 2002-03, our group modified inhibitors for a protein it produces and requires, namely the 3CL protease. This protein is essential for replication and infectivity of that SARS virus. Genome sequencing of the current "Wuhan" virus, SARS-CoV-2, demonstrates that it also has a 3CL protease that is nearly identical (96% the same). Of the 306 amino acid residues in the chain that makes the 3CL protease of the "Wuhan" virus (SARS-CoV-2), only 12 are different and they are highly similar in properties. Recently, chemical compounds we previously made for the original SARS 3CL inhibition were slightly altered and one new derivative was shown to cure cats of feline infectious peritonitis (FIP), a natural mutant of feline enteric coronavirus (FECV). This infection is almost always fatal, but the key compound effected cures or significant remissions in all the cats. We propose to make the key compound and a series of its analogs by chemical synthesis. In addition, we propose to clone and express the 3CL protease (non-infectious) of the Wuhan coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2). We propose to assay all synthetic compounds as inhibitors of the 3CL protease, and to obtain X-ray crystal structure pictures of the protease with these potential drugs to facilitate further inhibitor design. In a virology lab, compounds will be examined for their ability to kill the virus in infected cell lines. $714,250
Götte, Matthias University of Alberta Development and Evaluation of SARS- CoV-2 RNA Polymerase Inhibitors Coronaviruses (CoV) can cause severe human respiratory diseases, which is documented by three major outbreaks over the past 17 years: SARS-CoV in 2003, MERS-CoV in 2011, and currently SARS-CoV-2. In response to the current COVID-19 outbreak caused by SARS-CoV-2, we oppose to develop novel tools to discover, develop and evaluate inhibitors of the viral polymerase. The polymerase is an enzyme that is essentially required for the propagation of SARS-CoV-2, which makes it an attractive target for therapeutic intervention strategies. $675,000
Sidhu, Sachdev S University of Toronto Rapid development of antiviral compounds to fight the COVID-19 outbreak The outbreak of a respiratory illness (COVID-19) in China at the end of December 2019 has been demonstrated to be caused by a new coronavirus. While health officials are using quarantine methods to try and prevent the spread of the infection, there are currently no treatments for the illness, which can be severe and even lead to death in 2% of cases. Here, we propose to build on our previous research with viruses of the same family, which include those that cause severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS). We have previously successfully engineered small proteins capable of blocking the activity of an enzyme of the virus that is crucial for its replication and for shutting down the human immune response. We plan on using a similar strategy to build blockers of the new virus. These will be extremely useful in better understanding the biology of the virus. Most importantly, we will use these blocking proteins to find chemical drug candidates that block the activity of the viral enzyme in infected cells, which can then be developed as therapeutics. Our method is rapid and cost efficient, and within the two years of this grant, we expect to have a number of lead candidate drugs. In order to achieve these goals, we have assembled a team of leading scientists with expertise in protein engineering of viral inhibitors (Sachdev Sidhu, University of Toronto), structural biology of viruses (Brian Mark, University of Manitoba), and development of chemical drugs (Roman Melnyk, SickKids Research Institute, Toronto). Our project also has the support of an internationally recognized leader in viral biology (Marjolein Kikkert, Leiden University, Netherlands) and a frontline clinician-scientist in infectious diseases (Samira Mubareka, Sunnybrook Health Centre, Toronto). Ultimately, this work will generate critical tools to better understand this new virus, and most importantly, will provide novel candidate drugs for direly needed therapies. $886,090
Leduc, Richard Université de Sherbrooke Preventing SARS-CoV- 2 infection by targeting human type II transmembrane serine protease activity The SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus causing COVID-19 has been declared a global emergency by the World Health Organization which has mobilized international scientists to collaborate in order to find therapies to counteract the virus's effects which can be devastating. The strategies need to be as vast as possible since we do not yet know if vaccines or other antiviral drugs will be efficacious. Our group had previously shown in the context of influenza infection that the human host has cell-surface proteases (called type II transmembrane serine proteases or TTSPs) that the virus requires in order to cleave a viral surface protein called hemagglutinin, itself essential for the virus to gain entry into the cell and further replicate using the host cell machinery. We had shown that small molecules inhibiting the activity of lung epithelial cell proteases were efficacious at significantly reducing influenza virulence demonstrating novel anti-viral properties of the compounds. The situation is similar with the SARS-CoV-2 virus but the protein found on the surface of the virus is different. This protein is called the spike glycoprotein (or S protein) and it requires cleavage by human host cell proteases of the TTSP family for its virulence. Our proposal will test protease inhibitors in models where cells are expressing the S protein and the most potent molecules will then be validated in lung organoids to verify their efficacy at reducing viral propagation. We have put together a team of molecular pharmacologists, chemists and virologist with access to containment level 3 facilities to rapidly assess the potential anti-viral properties of the compounds that we already have on hand. In addition, our team will be supported by Dr. Gary Whittaker, Cornell University, one of the world's experts in coronavirus biology. We believe that these conditions are very favorable for us to have a quick impact in the field and to deliver novel antiviral compounds for patients with COVID-19. $856,000

Transmission dynamics and animal host

Researcher Title Description Amount invested
Fisman, David N University of Toronto Understanding, Forecasting and Communicating Risk During the COVID-19 Epidemic A new infectious disease, COVID-19, has emerged worldwide. Canada has experienced few cases, but there is great concern about the possibility of a Canadian COVID-19 epidemic. Canada has a history of preparing for and managing disease outbreaks caused by new viruses (SARS, H1N1, preparing for Ebola). For many people inside and outside the public health community, an important part of preparation is having access to accurate, timely, reliable information about how the disease is spread, who is at risk, and who is not at risk. Public health professionals often want the answers to three basic questions about epidemics: "when will it peak?"; "when will it end?"; "how big will it be?". Our team of doctors, epidemiologists, public health professionals, and statisticians has experience responding to past outbreaks like SARS, H1N1 and Ebola.   We are already actively involved in analysis and modeling  that is helping public health agencies and the general public understand the COVID-19 epidemic, and "see what's around the corner". We have proposed a three-part project, which will use math and statistical modeling to: (i) forecast the near-term course of the epidemic; (ii) gain better understanding of the parts of the epidemic that are hidden from view, by analysing data that are public, but often messy or noisy; and (iii) use our information to build simulations that can help guide Canadian health agencies as they try to control or limit the spread of COVID-19 in Canada. Throughout this project, we will be creating infographics and tools that let Canadians inside and outside the scientific community gain a better understanding of how epidemics spread, who is truly at risk, and what it takes to make epidemics end. By providing timely information to Canadians, we will help reduce the fear, xenophobia and anxiety that are often part and parcel of emerging infectious diseases. $331,683
McGeer, Allison J Sinai Health System (Toronto) RIsk of environmental Surface and air Contamination in COVID19 (RISC- COV) This study has three goals. First, we will collect clinical and epidemiologic information about COVID-19 in Toronto and Peel region to share with ISARIC studies of the risk factors for, clinical features and outcomes of this infection in Canada and around the world. Second, we will collect data about how long patients with this infection shed virus, and whether this virus can be found on surfaces and in the air around patients with this infection, in order to help guide infection prevention practice. Third, we will systematically collect samples containing the virus, serum and cells of the immune system, in order to create a biobank that can be shared with investigators developing vaccines and treatment for this disease. $493,140
Flamand, Louis Université Laval Understanding the pathogenesis of COVID-19 Pulmonary infections by viruses such virulent Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) coronavirus (CoV) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MeRS) CoV associated with significant morbidity and mortality. Clinically, infections by these viruses are associated with a pronounced lung inflammation, causing respiratory problems that often develop in secondary pneumonia. Inflammation is the result of immune activation in response to infection.  When activation is too pronounced or sustained for extended periods of time, complications occur. Two main mediators of inflammation are known: Cytokines and lipid mediators of inflammation (LMI). In the current proposal we will study the inflammatory response during infection/exposure of lung and blood cells to the newly described COVID-19 and compare this response to that of SARS-CoV-2 and MeRS-CoV to obtain correlates of pathogenicity between these viruses. We will use primary lung cells and white blood cells from donors to conduct our studies. The mediators of inflammation will be identified and quantitated using state of the art methodology available in our laboratories. More than 200 LMI and 150 cytokine/cytokine receptors will be examined. Upon completion of this proposal, a detailed analysis of the response of primary epithelial cells and leukocytes to COVID-19 will be obtained, enabling the rational design of therapeutic strategies to help combat COVID-19. $392,900
Bogoch, Isaac University Health Network (Toronto) Harnessing human mobility and surveillance data for disease forecasting to drive evidence-based public health policy during the COVID-19 epidemic COVID-19 emerged from Wuhan, China in late December 2019 and is currently spreading to international destinations, globally. At the time of writing, cases have been confirmed in 24 countries worldwide. Of major concern are early indications of human-to- human transmission outside of China in those without a travel history to China. During the two months of this epidemic, public health policy has adapted rapidly to emerging information about disease location, disease burden, and clinical features of COVID- 19. Public health screening and interventions will need to continuously evolve over the course of this epidemic to keep up with new foci of infection and potential new regions of COVID-19 exportation.  We aim to harness validated tools to predict where COVID- 19 will spread in real time by using a novel, AI-driven web-based surveillance tool coupled with real-time human mobility data. This surveillance system identifies regions with real or suspected cases of COVID-19. We simultaneously harness global commercial air transportation data and geo-referenced mobile device data to reflect human mobility, also in real time. We have successfully validated these tools for COVID-19 forecasting during the course of this epidemic and published our results in peer-reviewed literature. We will first use the AI-based surveillance system to identify regions with confirmed and suspected COVID-19 cases. We will then model the spread of infection from these locations by harnessing human mobility data to identify and forecast new regions (at the city, regional, and national level) for virus importation. We will work closely with our partners in the World Health Organization, the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) to use this data to help drive evidence-based public health policy in real time, with a focus on global projection strategies, and strategies for low and middle income countries in Southeast Asia. $674,800
Prystajecky, Natalie Anne University of British Columbia Rapid Response to Emerging Serious Pathogen Outbreaks using Next-gen Data: R2ESPOND A new virus has been identified from Wuhan City in China from the coronavirus family (SARS-CoV-2), which is now responsible for more than 71,000 cases of illness (COVID-19 disease) in over 29 countries. Although there have not yet been any deaths in Canada, public health agencies are on high alert, as there is a real possibility of a serious epidemic. The WHO has declared COVID- 19 a public health emergency of international concern. As of February 14th, five COVID-19 cases have been confirmed in British Columbia and based on travel patterns there is every reason to expect additional cases in BC. There are many unanswered questions regarding the virus, how it spreads and the disease that it causes. This information is needed for a data-driven response to this outbreak. We aim to use two types of next-generation data (next-gen genomics data and next-gen human data), along with a data integration tool called PLOVER 2.0, to answer these unknowns. The research team will 1)Carry out rapid genomic sequencing on patient samples to study the virus, how it spreads, how it evolves and predict which drugs will work 2)Develop knowledge of how the virus characteristics, along with a patient's previous health conditions, impact the severity of illness and how they recover from the illness 3)Develop a software tool (PLOVER 2.0) that will allow us to carry out this research and will also make the data viewable by key stakeholders such as Medical Health Officers. This work will not only generate critical knowledge about the SARS-CoV-2 virus but will also help develop a better understanding of health outcomes for infected patients. The knowledge generated and tools developed by this research can ensure an evidence-based and cohesive response to this public health emergency, here in Canada and internationally. $1,000,000


Researcher Title Description Amount invested
Falzarano, Darryl University of Saskatchewan Animal models for SARS-CoV-2: vaccines and immune enhancement In December 2019 a novel coronavirus (CoV) was identified as the cause of pneumonia in a cluster of patients in Wuhan, China. This virus is related to severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS)-CoV and has been named SARS-CoV-2. In less than two months, there have been over 69,000 cases and over 1600 deaths. Quarantine measures have been imposed on entire cities in China in an attempt to control spread. Cases of SARS-CoV-2 have been identified in 28 other countries and there is concern that this could lead to global pandemic. Here we propose to identify what common lab and agricultural animals may be infected with SARS-CoV-2. This addresses two important questions. What animals can be infected and may pose a risk (or are at risk) and can these animals be used to models. Animal model allow us to understand how the virus causes disease, whether vaccines can be developed that protect from disease and how might the virus be transmitted. These are critical questions that need to be addressed when a new pathogen emerges. In addition, there is some concern that less than optimal vaccines or previous exposure to related pathogens could exaserbate disease - this is a somewhat unique phenomenom that was observed with SARS-CoV vaccines. We plan to investigate whether these animal models can be used to test for this, to ensure that vaccines are safe prior to testing in human clinical trials. $999,793
Kobinger, Gary P Université Laval Development of vaccine candidates and monoclonal antibodies to interrupt the spread of the novel coronavirus, COVID- 19. The novel coronavirus (Covid19) that emerged in Wuhan, China is a threat to global health. Infection causes respiratory disease that can progress to pneumonia, acute respiratory distress and even death. Often patients require hospitalization and intensive care, which increases the chance of viral spread within health care settings. Since it was first identified there have been over 69000 cases, and 1600 deaths, and the virus has spread to multiple countries. Currently, there are no vaccines or therapeutics, but these are urgently needed to bring the epidemic under control. Our proposal seeks to address these areas of need by a multifaceted approach. Specifically, the objectives of this proposal include: 1) Isolation of virus and generation of an in vitro reverse-genetics COVID-19 system 2) Identification of neutralizing antibodies 3) Development and evaluation of candidate vaccines Additionally, the project will generate data on the safety of candidate vaccines in humans through a phase I trial. This will help determine which vaccines can be advance for further study. This will be accomplished through synergistic research between the biotechnology companies Medicago and Inovio in conjunction with several academic research laboratories. Dr. Kobinger's group has an established track record of translational research, and has successfully brought a DNA-vaccine against MERS-CoV to phase I clinical trials 24 months after commencing the project and in less than 7 months for Zika virus. He has led multinational collaborations in the past, and has a history of promoting collaborative and transparent consortium-based research programs. This proposal will develop tools that can be shared with the world scientific community that will help further our understanding of viral pathogenesis, transmission as well as screen potential small-molecule inhibitors and antibodies. Collectively, the findings from this project have potential to contribute to global response against COVID19. $999,356
Leclerc, Denis Université Laval Development of a nanoparticle-based vaccine candidate to the SARS-CoV-2 The recent outbreak of the coronavirus in the province of Wuhan in China is an international concern since there is a risk for  spreading the infection outside the Chinese territory. The spreading of the virus is facilitated by its human to human transmission by aerosols. Several approaches must be taken to limit the spread of the virus, including quarantine, the decontamination of infected areas, early detection in patients, etc. It is also widely recognized that vaccination is from far the most efficient approach to control the spreading of the infection and protect the population. We propose first the development of a vaccine component-1 to the SARS- CoV-2 based on the use of an immune enhancer nanoparticle coupled to peptides derived from the virus nucleocapsid. This vaccine will trigger a protective immune response against the virus. The use of peptide antigens allows moving very fast in the development of the vaccine candidate. Besides the speed, this approach has the merit to induce a broad CTL immune response that should also trigger protection to any strains of the virus that are related to the Wuhan virus, like the SARS virus of 2002. Second, we will design and prepare a second vaccine component that will elicit the production of neutralizing antibodies to the SARS-CoV-2. Finally, both components will be combined in one vaccine formulation that will provide robust protection to the SARS-CoV-2 and also to related viruses, like the SRAS virus of 2002. The nanoparticles used to attach the vaccine antigens are very stable. The coupling to the nanoparticle will stabilize the antigens and generate a very stable vaccine formulation that can be stockpiled for a long period (years) without loss of integrity. This is an advantage because to insure preparedness to other epidemics with related viruses. $717,645

Social and policy countermeasures

Coordination, Governance and Logistics

Researcher Title Description Amount invested
Smith, Maxwell University of Western Ontario Ethical Pathways for Therapeutics and Vaccine R&D in the Context of Public Health Emergencies of International Concern: An Analysis of the 2013 16 Ebola Outbreak to Rapidly Inform COVID-19 R&D A cross-cutting research priority identified by the recent WHO COVID-19 Global Research and Innovation Forum is the establishment of appropriate ethical oversight and global collaboration to accelerate COVID-19 R&D, and to establish these in such a way that promotes solidarity and equity. Yet, the existing COVID-19 research roadmap and WHO R&D Blueprint are largely silent on the global ethical pathways required to guide and oversee rapid therapeutics and vaccine R&D in this context (including whether and how such pathways ought to be modified, or precisely what solidarity and equity require for these activities). To identify and successfully navigate these ethical and regulatory pathways for COVID-19 R&D, we can look to the unprecedented  R&D response to the 2013-16 Ebola virus disease (EVD) outbreak for guidance. Only five months following the development of the first study protocols for EVD, the first patients were enrolled in clinical trials. Only four years later, the first vaccine was licensed in the United States. The atypical expediency of these R&D efforts was, in part, a product of significant modifications and adaptations to the usual ethical and regulatory pathways for health product development-pathways that involve ethical inputs into study protocols, independent ethics review of studies, global consultation and governance, data sharing agreements, and the approval, licensure, and dissemination of resulting products.  This project will for the first time (1) analyze and describe the ethical pathways for R&D that existed or were established for EVD in order to aid the global research community in navigating these pathways for COVID-19 R&D; (2) analyze and describe the ethical pathways as they are established and navigated for COVID-19 R&D in order to rapidly support ongoing and future COVID-19 R&D; and (3) compare and conduct an ethical analysis of the ethical pathways for EVD and COVID-19 R&D to inform future R&D during epidemics. $283,656
Lee, Kelley Simon Fraser University (Burnaby, B.C.) Understanding non- compliance with the International Health Regulations (2005): Recommended strategies to inform and strengthen global coordination of the COVID-19 outbreak response Outbreaks such as the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) can result in inappropriate, excessive and counterproductive measures that hinder global coordination of outbreak response. Moreover, they compound loss of life and illness by contributing to unnecessary social and economic disruption, and can discourage countries from open reporting for fear of retaliation. For these reasons, the World Health Organization (WHO) declaration of the COVID-19 outbreak as a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC) included recommended, evidence-based measures for detection, containment and control based on available data. These measures adhere to International Health Regulations (IHR) principles concerning human rights, proportionality, and unnecessary interference with trade and travel. Yet preliminary analysis suggests a higher number and range of non-compliant measures are being adopted than previous PHEICs. The goal of this project is to strengthen global coordination of the COVID-19 outbreak response through a fuller understanding of crossborder measures adopted, their likely positive/negative impacts, reason(s) for adoption, and strategies to increase compliance. This project applies a mixed-methods approach to achieve 4 objectives: a) define, categorize and track crossborder measures adopted during the COVID-19 and previous outbreaks; b) systematically review existing evidence of their public health and wider impacts; c) understand decisions to adopt compliant or non-compliant measures in 4 case study settings (Australia, Canada, Hong Kong and US); and d) identify strategies to encourage increased compliance. Working closely with key knowledge users, including WHO, we will collect and analyze new data, and combine it with our existing datasets to conduct real time quantitative cross-outbreak analysis. The key outcome of this project is to mitigate the rapid spread of COVID-19 through practical, evidence-informed strategies that strengthen global coordination. $499,922
Fafard, Patrick University of Ottawa Senior public health leadership during the 2019 novel coronavirus outbreak: Comparative approaches to mitigating the spread of infectious disease and its social consequences in Canada and abroad During an infectious disease outbreak, senior public health leaders work diligently to contain its spread, manage the medical and social impact, and try to counter misinformation and prevent discrimination. The emergence of a novel coronavirus has vividly demonstrated the need for clear, timely, and accessible information from trusted and authoritative public figures. In many countries, the virus has been accompanied by the spread of false information, racism, and panic. These factors heighten the risks of the virus  for individuals and communities and complicate the challenges public health leaders face in containing it.  The proposed research will systematically analyze the ways in which public health leaders in Canada and four other countries with similar public health systems are addressing the biological and social risks of the novel coronavirus in their public messaging across a range of platforms, including social media. Using text analysis of official communications and one-on-one interviews with public health leaders, we will analyze and compare how government spokespeople, including Chief Public Health Officers and Ministers of Health, are communicating medical advice, addressing misinformation, and tackling racism. We will also examine whether and how they identify different impacts of the virus based on sex and gender. The project will additionally collect public polling data to investigate the extent to which these public health communications are received, understood, and trusted by citizens in different countries. As a result of this project, we will have a better understanding of who speaks for the government during an outbreak, the kind of  information they share, and how their messages are understood by the public. $308,690
Wilson, Kumanan Bruyère Research Institute Canada's response to Covid-19 in the context of the IHR(2005) and its opportunity to lead in global health security: a policy analysis On January 30th, 2020 the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak of a novel coronavirus originating in the city of Wuhan, China an international health emergency. Guided by global rules (the International Health Regulations), the WHO has taken action to limit the harm caused by the virus while at the same time protecting the international travel and trade. This grant will determine how Canada has adhered to these global rules and what it can do to support them. We will review stories from the media, important policy documents and other relevant materials. We will also interview key people in Canada and around the world involved in protecting the public from these threats. We will specifically examine if there is an opportunity for Canada to help lead efforts to protect the world from similar threats in the future. $212,397
Labonté, Ronald University of Ottawa Towards Better Governance of Zoonotic Disease Risk: One Health Principles in the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Response The unfolding 2019-nCov outbreak presents an opportunity to establish a real-time monitoring infrastructure to study how One Heath principles are implemented in the global governance of infectious diseases (IDs). Through employing rapid environmental scan methodology and building on already existing research collaborations, we will be able to produce immediate results focused on the global coordination and response system that can feed into better global governance of 2019n-Cov, improving evidence-based decision-making and enhancing international collaborative efforts to mitigate the spread of 2019-nCov. $499,304

Public health response and its impact

Researcher Title Description Amount invested
Parsons Leigh, Jeanna J Dalhousie University (Nova Scotia) Socio-Cultural Implications of COVID- 19: Educating, Engaging & Empowering the Public A novel infectious disease, COVID-19, is affecting mainland China and is now in at least 27 other countries. Since December 2019, over 67,000 people have been infected and more than 1,500 have died. Infectious disease outbreaks pose a severe threat to the physical and mental health of individuals and populations worldwide. A better understanding of social and cultural factors that contribute to public knowledge and perceptions of COVID-19 are needed to develop evidence informed strategies to combat misinformation, stigma and fear. In response to this challenge this study proposes to develop a national knowledge translation (KT) campaign to enhance public knowledge, understand public perceptions and develop targeted interventions to close identified public knowledge gaps. This will be achieved in three phases:  i) Focus groups with members of the public from 5 provinces to identify major factors influencing public knowledge, perceptions and behaviours during the COVID-19 outbreak. ii) National survey with 1000 members of the public across Canada to create a comprehensive list of top public knowledge gaps, perceptions, and behaviours related to the COVID-19.  iii) A national knowledge translation (KT) Campaign to educate, empower and engage the public to increase knowledge and foster positive public change in the context of the COVID-19 epidemic. This study will target the Canadian public with the ultimate goal to educate, empower and engage members of the public to be informed stewards of their health knowledge in relation to the current outbreak by strengthening public understanding of the impact of COVID-19 on individuals and communities and providing evidence informed interventions to inform social and public health responses. $401,161
Kennedy, Eric B York University (Toronto, Ontario) Understanding Social Perceptions of Risk, Information Sources, Trust, and Public Engagement Related to the COVID-19 Outbreak The aim of this project is to conduct rigorous research that (a) documents, preserves, and shares perishable data about the social dimensions of an emergent outbreak, and (b) that translates and mobilizes this knowledge into tangible countermeasures that can aid in minimizing the negative impacts of the disease on individuals and communities. With the emergence of a new disease like COVID-19, there is the potential for significant fear, stigmatization, and misinformation. It is essential to understand how these phenomenon operate; to trace how they affect public attitudes, fears, and beliefs; and to support evidence-based communication by government and expert public health sources that can help to minimize panic or stigmatization, support the adoption of appropriate precautions, and promote effective and pro-social responses. We combine four data sources (a nationally-representative survey sampling 300,000 Canadian households three times over the next two years; follow-up interviews with 135-165 participants; social media data; and mainstream media discourse analyses) to investigate a series of research questions surrounding public perceptions, fears, and reactions. The survey and interviews will provide core data on public perceptions of the risk of COVID-19, who  Canadians are turning to as experts on the topic, and what information they are seeking. We correlate this data with analyses of the content being shared through social and traditional media platforms. This project supports the response to COVID-19. By better understanding Canadian risk perceptions, fears, and information sources, we can support the development and testing of more effective strategies for sharing reliable information and garnering trust. Longitudinal, cross-Canada surveying allows for regional analysis of interventions, rapid identification of what information Canadians are seeking, and the creation of pathways for sharing public knowledge and opportunities for engagement. $428,816
Crush, Jonathan Wilfrid Laurier University (Waterloo, Ontario) Assessing and Mitigating the Food Security Consequences of COVID-19 in China This project will evaluate the impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak on household food security in Chinese cities, assess the effectiveness of temporary policies from multi-stakeholder perspective and develop social and policy measures to mitigate the impacts. Building on the expertise, research instruments, and networks developed through the SSHRC-funded Hungry Cities Partnership, our objectives are to: 1) Investigate the immediate food security challenges resulting from China's quarantine measures, unstable food supply, and fear of food shopping in two COVID-19 affected cities (Wuhan and Nanjing); 2) Compare food security status in Nanjing following the COVID-19 outbreak with baseline data collected through Hungry Cities in 2015; and 3) Synthesize and assess policies established to address food security challenges and promote effective measures by engaging local stakeholders. Our Canadian-Chinese research team has strong multidisciplinary expertise in food security evaluation, food policy analysis and the social and food security impacts of infectious diseases. Using a mixed-methods approach, we will generate rapid answers to Objective 1 through an online household survey and follow-up telephone interviews with residents of Wuhan and Nanjing, and a complementary inventory of immediate policy measures. Building on the survey instruments and established connections developed through the Hungry Cities Partnership, we will address Objective 2 through a longitudinal analysis to evaluate changes in household food security before and after the COVID-19 epidemic. Objective 3 will be addressed through a policy analysis and in-depth interviews with diverse local stakeholders. Outcomes will be relevant to academics, international organizations, and policymakers involved in efforts to strengthen food provisioning amid the epidemic in China. Results will also be useful to policymakers in other countries at risk of food security during infection disease outbreaks. $438,241
Leslie, Myles Policy Implementation and Communication Lessons from Alberta's Acute and Primary Care Environments During the COVID-19 Response As international, national, or provincial agencies develop policies to combat an outbreak like COVID-19, these policies will always be interpreted through the local context and culture of the healthcare workers on the front lines. Context and culture are important elements of any public health response, not just in communities, but in clinical settings as well. This project will use a mix of qualitative methods to evaluate how COVID-19 preparedness and response policies are being transmitted and implemented in acute and primary care facilities in the province of Alberta. Through site visits, task analyses, and interviews with public health professionals and clinicians at the provincial level, we will conduct a systematic assessment of how policies, protocols, priorities and communication channels are functioning. We will be asking our participants how they are implementing and prioritizing: staff, case, and space management policies; referral and isolation protocols; and surveillance and risk communication priorities in preparation for the appearance of COVID-19. As well as offering a detailed description of how things are playing out on the ground, our research will identify gaps, challenges, and opportunities for improving existing response efforts. We will be writing reports and papers that help Alberta and other provinces plan for future public health emergencies. These reports and papers will focus on how context and culture impact clinical capabilities for public health preparedness and policy implementation. $429,646
Wei, Xiaolin University of Toronto Developing integrated guidelines for health care workers in hospital and primary healthcare facilities in response to Covid-19 pandemic in Low- and Middle-Income Countries (LMICs) The proposal responds to the CIHR call regarding public health responses to the 2019 novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic. We recognise the gap in LMICs where there is an under financed health system and low capacity of health care workers (HCWs) in hospitals, public and private primary care facilities and the community/ NGO to respond to the pandemic. The World Health Organization (WHO) has produced technical guidance, but the guidance documents are broad, they have to be updated with new developments, and translated into guidelines for HCWs, i.e., doctors, nurses and community health workers for hospitals, primary care and community in LMICs. Here we choose the Philippines and Sri Lanka because they both reported Covid-19 cases, and we can quickly mobilize resources. We aim to develop an integrated plan for HCWs to respond to the pandemic, as well as role-specific guidelines to manage Covid-19 suspects and cases regarding hospital patient flow, infection control, patient supervision and support in communities. We will learn from frontline experiences in China and update our understanding. We will work with policymakers, HCWs and NGOs in the Philippines and Sri Lanka to develop the guidelines and training modules. We will pilot test the tools for feasibility and acceptability among HCWs in the Philippines, adapt in Sri Lanka, and generate a generic version for LMICs to respond to Covid-19 and any future similar pandemic. Our integrated response strategy aims to update skills of HCWs, reduce patient overload at hospitals, avoid hospital transmission, reduce community transmission and public panic, provide patient support and reduce stigma. Our professional team consists of researchers from Canada, the Philippines, and Sri Lanka. The team has strong related experience and can quickly produce a draft guideline and materials within 2 months and finalize all work in 24 months. $498,188
Halperin, Scott A Dalhousie University (Nova Scotia) Understanding the effects of public health outbreak control policies and implementation on individuals and communities: a path to improving COVID-19 policy effectiveness This project will examine the cultural dimensions of the coronavirus (COVID-19) epidemic such as examining how individuals and communities understand and react to the disease, studying the response of public health, and exploring how public health policy affects individuals and communities. While public health policies are required to control an infectious disease outbreak, these policies can adversely affect individuals and communities. Quarantine, limitations in movement and public gathering, and other restrictive measures can put a social and economic burden on individuals, which may be disproportionate, depending on their socioeconomic status and other factors. Healthcare providers are both involved in administering the policy but are also put at grave risk in caring for patients. This will be a multiprovince, multicountry study in Canada (British Columbia, Ontario, Nova Scotia), Bangladesh, and China (Guangdong). We will use qualitative methodology (document review, key informant interviews, focus groups) and quantitative methods (surveys) to examine policy and implementation from the public health/policy perspective as well perspectives of the media, communities, healthcare providers, patients and their caregivers, and members of the general public. These data will be used to improve the process by which public health policies are created and implemented. $499,904
Mamuji, Aaida York University (Toronto, Ontario) Destigmatizing Chinese Communities in the face of 2019-nCoV: Emergency Management Actions to Address Social Vulnerability in Toronto and Nairobi Chinese communities around the world are facing impacts to their personal wellbeing and livelihoods by way of discrimination and Sinophobia (anti-Chinese sentiment) due to COVID-19 disease (formally 2019-nCoV). By performing rapid response research, we can better understand social and policy countermeasures to mitigate the threats communities face from this and future Public Health Emergencies of International Concern (PHEIC). This project focuses on the research area of social and policy countermeasures. Specifically, cultural dimensions of the epidemic such as examining how individuals and communities understand and react to the disease along with tailoring a response to the unique circumstances of different populations will be the foci of this project. Our research team will: 1) examine how Chinese diaspora communities in large urban centres globally, namely in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA or Toronto herein), Canada and Nairobi, Kenya are understanding and reacting to the novel coronavirus by studying social impacts and coping strategies. 2) engage with vulnerable groups (children, women, elderly, etc.) within Chinese communities using participatory action research approaches to counter misinformation about COVID-19 and share emergency management and public health practices and resources relevant to the health crisis. 3) share findings with emergency management professionals in both countries and collaboratively develop a culturally-specific public education campaign to support efforts to destigmatize Chinese communities during the COVID-19 PHEIC in both Toronto and Nairobi. 4) use social media and knowledge sharing events to educate the broader community on the true impact of misinformation, disinformation, stigma and fear, with the hope that this will improve community cohesion during the outbreak phase, in recovery, and for future resilience. $499,121
Wang, Peizhong P Memorial University of Newfoundland Mobilizing the Chinese Immigrant Community and Battling the Potential COVID-19 outbreak in the Greater Toronto Area: Gathering essential information, creating a mutual support quarantine network and assessing psychological impacts The COVID-19 outbreak is raging in China and spreading across the globe. The situation is getting worse and may last longer than anyone can expect. Despite of only eight confirmed cases, Canada is now shrouded in fear and worry in face of uncertainty. The Greater Toronto Area (GTA) has one of the largest Chinese communities in the world and thus bears the brunt of the fear, anxiety, and panic. This, coupled with English language obstacles, has enabled rumors and misinformation to explode on social media. It has been suggested that the Toronto Chinese community is the most vulnerable, yet least prepared population for the potential COVID- 19 outbreak. There is an urgent need to prepare and mobilize the GTA Chinese community to fight against the possible outbreak. In this context, the overarching goal of the proposed work is to assess the knowledge, develop effective epidemic control practice, and identify the psychological impacts of the disease. This will be achieved through coordinated efforts across communities, professionals, and local residents, to address three specific and inter-related objectives: 1) assessing GTA Chinese immigrants' knowledge, attitudes/beliefs, and protection practices toward COVID-19; 2) developing, evaluating, and optimizing a mutual- support quarantine network to contain COVID-19 from further spreading; and 3) assessing the psychological impacts and the associated predictors of the potential COVID-19 outbreak. The proposed project is culturally relevant, practical, and community- based. The research team is comprised of multidisciplinary researchers from the related fields of public health (epidemiology), psychology, sociology, and health policy. As part of the ongoing effort, the team has been closely working with the GTA Chinese community in various ways. This project will benefit not only the target population but also other communities in Canada. $295,020
Wong, Josephine P Ryerson University (Toronto) PROTECH - Pandemic Rapid-response Optimization To Enhance Community- resilience and Health Global travel and trade have led to the spread of contagious diseases around the world, or pandemics. News about emerging pandemics often bring out fear and anxiety in the public. Recent public response to the new coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak reflected blame, fear, and racism against the Chinese communities. We have learned during the 2003 SARS crisis in Toronto that stigma could lead to crushing harm on the health, psychological, social, and economic well-being of the affected communities. In response to the potential negative impacts of COVID-19 on the Chinese communities, our team proposes a cutting-edge model - Pandemic Rapid-response Optimization To Enhance Community-Resilience and Health (PROTECH) that consists of three interrelated components: (1) an online resource hub that provides accurate and timely information on COVID-19, and practical ways to cope with fear and anxiety; (2) an online group training with live video meeting to reduce stigma/stress and promote resilience among affected groups (individuals tested positive; healthcare providers experiencing stress or burnout, community leaders); and (3) a framework that sustains the first two components and aligns people, processes, and resources together. Our team includes clinicians, researchers, and leaders from diverse public, arts, and business sectors. We will also reach out to key opinion leaders and community influencers to mobilize the Chinese and other affected communities. We will use focus groups, surveys, and note-taking on project activities to examine the effectiveness of PROTECH in reducing stress and stigma, and promoting collective resilience, or how to best support the affected groups to keep well despite the challenges. Finally, the PROTECH model can be adapted and used in different communities across Canada and other countries for future pandemic outbreaks. $500,000
Qian, Yue University of British Columbia City Shutdown as a Response to COVID- 19: Understanding Human Experiences and Mental Health Consequences of the Quarantine in Wuhan Wuhan, where COVID-19 originated, is the capital of Hubei Province, with a population of over 11 million. The municipal government shut down the entire city since Jan 23, 2020, hoping to halt the COVID-19 outbreak. "[B]elieved to be without precedent" (New York Times), this largest quarantine in human history provides a natural case study to assess the impact of quarantine, as a public health response to COVID-19, on individuals and communities. We will conduct five waves of online survey, each four months apart, to follow a diverse sample of 8,000 adults who lived in Wuhan during the quarantine. The survey will  evaluate respondents' mental health, challenges encountered, and community services received during and after the quarantine. We will use survey data to identify individual and community risk factors for mental health outcomes during and after the quarantine, thereby determining the course of post-quarantine recovery and pinpointing the populations that need public health services the most. We will also conduct in-depth interviews with 120 adults who lived in Wuhan during the quarantine to examine, in much greater detail, how people understood, reacted to, and coped with the quarantine, and what local barriers, challenges, and needs existed in combating the COVID-19 outbreak. Our interviews will target vulnerable groups who have special healthcare needs (pregnant women, people with chronic conditions, and the elderly living alone) and people who are primary caregivers (people who care for family members with COVID-19, healthcare workers, and parents of young children). Spanning the fields of public health, sociology, demography, and disaster studies, this research will illuminate the feasibility of quarantine as a public health response to COVID-19, inform community and mental health service planning for post-epidemic recovery, and ultimately help to mitigate potential negative impacts of quarantine and the COVID-19 outbreak on individuals and communities. $400,468
Lester, Richard T University of British Columbia Digital Virtual Support of Cases and Contacts to Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19): Readiness and Knowledge Sharing for Global Outbreaks (WelTel PHM) The global outbreak of COVID-19 is the latest example of a rapidly spreading infectious outbreak with global impact. Infected patients with mild symptoms and asymptomatic contacts need to be isolated, ideally without overwhelming health facilities. WelTel, an integrated virtual care and patient engagement solution, emerged as an innovation initially to support the global HIV pandemic through a Canadian-Kenyan partnership over a decade ago. Co-founded by the lead investigator and registered in British Columbia, WelTel has continued to integrate research into a richly featured virtual care platform that can be used on the frontlines of healthcare delivery. The study aims to: 1-Deploy and co-optimize WelTel to assist in home monitoring and support of COVID-19 cases and contacts; 2- Determine essential linkages and technical demands of the digital health ecosystem for data security purposes and integration into other electronic health records (EHR) & health information management systems (HIMS); 3-Evaluate communication and other metadata captured by the system for public health quality improvement to better understand and reduce barriers (such as stigma); 4-Use novel computing approaches such as natural language processing (NLP) and machine learning to harness artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities to model, predict, and provide insights into future precision public health approaches. Collaborators have necessary expert skills in quantitative and qualitative research methods for rigorous assessment, and come from the countries targeted for the research deployment (Canada, UK, US, Kenya, and Rwanda). A rapid digital landscape analysis will also be done as a part of this research. Virtual care may be an efficient, cost-effective way to provide the necessary public health monitoring and support for patients and contacts of COVID-19 and future emerging communicable pathogens, as well as can inform public health quality improvement and precision care. $500,000
Mclachlan, Stephane M University of Manitoba kitatipithitamak mithwayawin: Indigenous-Led Countermeasures to Coronavirus (COVID- 19) and other Pandemics Then, Now, and Into the Future The 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) was first identified on December 31 2019 in Wuhan, China. As of February 18 2020, 73,439 COVID-19 cases have been confirmed in 29 countries around the world with an attributed 1,875 deaths. The World Health Organization recently declared COVID-19 as a global health emergency. Studies on H1N1 and other pandemics show that Indigenous communities in Canada suffered most from these diseases. Responses to H1N1 were often inadequate and at worst created more harm than good. Communities had poor access to medical experts and supplies. Indigenous organizations were mostly excluded from decision-making. And misinformation generated much fear that still persists today. Yet, many Indigenous communities and organizations also responded effectively and, with others, eventually found ways to reduce the impacts of H1N1. The outbreak of COVID-19 thus represents a critical moment. On one hand the same mistakes could be made, with similar impacts. On the other hand, there is an opportunity to do things differently in ways that are grounded in the priorities of Indigenous communities and organizations. The goal of this project is to evaluate the implications of past and existing responses to pandemics with respect to Indigenous communities across Canada and to address any gaps in understanding and support related to COVID-19 and future pandemics. This collaborative project will focus on the past by documenting experiences with other pandemics and explore changes in response over time. It will focus on the present by assessing current state of community emergency planning and risk communication. Finally, it will focus on the future by assessing community responses to different possible scenario and ideas for moving forward. We will share our outcomes with Indigenous communities and organizations across Canada, all levels of governments, and the general public so that the health interests of Indigenous people are best served now and into the future. $500,000
Nicholas, David B University of Calgary Exploring the Psychosocial and Health Service Consequences of Coronavirus on Children and their Families: Lessons Learned for Pediatric Health Care Practice and Policy Outbreaks such as COVID-19 risk deleteriously affecting the quality of pediatric health care. For vulnerable children (e.g., those with COVID-19 or other respiratory conditions, those who are immunosuppressed, those with a terminal illness), person/family- centred care is essential to their health and well-being particularly in times of systemic challenge, which paradoxically is taxed during a pandemic outbreak.  Studies have shown that outbreaks like COVID-19 strain practices such as imposing stringent  infectious control procedures as well as widespread stigma and fear. These shifts risk negative impacts on tangible, relational (e.g., communication) and psychosocial aspects of care that can exacerbate patient anxiety and isolation both in and out of hospital. Procedural and other shifts in care may be needed to diminish negative impacts and conversely optimize patient care. Using qualitative data collection, this study will illuminate the perspectives of children, their families, and health care providers about how the COVID-19 outbreak has impacted public health and institutional health care delivery. Pediatric care processes and stakeholder experiences will be explored via ground theory methods. We will recruit pediatric patients with varying conditions, their parents and health care providers. Diversity in family ethno-cultural and socio-economic backgrounds will be sought. Interviews, focus groups and a Delphi consultation will be conducted, as will a comparison of these findings relative to similar data collected by members of this team during the 2003 Canadian SARS outbreak. Accordingly, potential advances in pandemic preparedness and care will be appraised. Recommendations for practice and policy will be offered. $261,367
Wang, Lu Ryerson University (Toronto) Spatial and social patterning of COVID- 19 prevention and transmission in Canada: Investigating the impacts of risk perception and preventive behaviour on individual activity space Emerging and re-emerging global infectious diseases are presenting unprecedented public health challenges, resulting in negative, long-lasting health, sociocultural and economic consequences for individuals and communities around the world. As a global city, Toronto is home to one of the most highly-travelled populations in the world. It has been a significant receiving geography of a number of global infectious diseases. The project aims to understand the relationships among health risk perception, community prevention behaviour and individual activity space during the on-going global COVID-19 outbreak. Disease transmission in an urban centre is directly influenced by individual activity space and the effectiveness of preventive measures taken in a community, which is largely shaped by perception of the disease and its risk. The project will (1) explore the perception of COVID-19 and its risks among groups with different immigration status, socio-economic-demographic characteristics within Toronto's Chinese community; (2) examine how risk perception shapes prevention behaviour and individual activity space; and (3) assess how activity space is influenced by risk perception, prevention practices, and other factors through spatial-quantitative, mapping and qualitative analysis. Data will be collected from a community survey on risk perception, prevention behaviour and daily mobility, and focus groups on coping strategies. The project will contribute to the global response to the COVID-19 outbreak by providing evidence- based findings on community prevention behaviour in a large urban hub. It will reveal local perspectives, citizen approaches and community practices as outbreak response effort, and enhance our understanding of the cultural dimensions of the epidemic. It will yield implications for public health response in setting policies under time constraints and uncertainty, allocating resources, identifying high-risk groups and setting vaccine priority. $189,050
Buckeridge, David L McGill University Using Online News Media to Assess Community and Public Health Responses to COVID-19 Canada has played a leading role in developing computer-based systems for scanning news on the internet to detect signals of infectious diseases. We will work with he Public Health Agency of Canada and the World Health Organization to develop artificial intelligence methods for analyzing news on the internet to understand how communities and public health agencies around the world are responding to the corona virus epidemic. These methods will help to understand the impact of the epidemic, identify effective strategies for controlling the epidemic, and contribute to improved global disease surveillance in the future. $500,000

Social dynamics, communications and trust

Researcher Title Description Amount invested
Noels, Kimberly University of Alberta Chinese and non- Chinese Canadians Response to the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19): Interrelations between Risk Perception, Discrimination, and Preventative Health Actions The coronavirus (COVID-19) has triggered fear worldwide, and in Canada, some of this fear has been misplaced onto Chinese Canadians. The proposed research program is broadly concerned with Chinese Canadians' experiences of discrimination and stigmatization in the current context of the COVID-19 epidemic. Central to these experiences, we suggest, is non-Chinese Canadians' understanding of risk and the cultural dimensions of preventative health practices. The research program has three interrelated components that, together, will contribute to a comprehensive understanding of how Chinese and non-Chinese Canadians understand, experience, and react to the COVID-19, and have implications for developing strategies to combat stigma and fear associated with Chinese people and COVID-19. The first study involves a longitudinal study of Chinese Canadians' experiences of discrimination during the COVID-19 epidemic will help determine what kinds of support Chinese Canadians would like to receive now and in the near future. The second study focuses on non-Chinese Canadians' perceptions of risk associated with virus transmission. This study will test the idea that one way to allay fears aroused by viral outbreaks is to provide people with accurate numerical information about the mortality rate produced by the virus, and its main implication that reducing fear may decrease discrimination against Chinese Canadians. Risk perceptions also predict preventative behaviour. Thus, the third study focuses on wearing a face mask in public as a preventative health practice that is particularly enmeshed in cultural beliefs that differ across the two communities Together, these three interrelated components represent significant social countermeasure research to combat the intergroup threat driven by misinformation, stigma, and cultural misunderstanding associated with COVID-19. $219,580
Jardine, Cynthia University of The Fraser Valley (BC) Developing COVID-19 Risk Communication and Community Engagement Readiness Strategy Guidance for Travelers Visiting Friends and Relatives (VFR) Containing an emerging disease, such as the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19) depends on stopping the spread of the disease to other areas around the world. People who travel back to their countries of origin to visit friends and relatives (VFR) (including the children of immigrants and international students) are often at a higher risk of getting the disease and then spreading it to others. A better understanding of VFR traveler knowledge, risk perceptions, information needs, barriers to pre-travel care and advice, and access to protective measures will help us better develop strategies to keep travelers healthy. This will prevent the spread of COVID- 19 and its potential negative consequences. Our research will take place in the Fraser Valley and lower mainland of British Columbia as an area with a high number of immigrants. We are seeking information from Chinese and Punjabi VFR travelers, international students at the University of the Fraser Valley, and family physicians. We will use a combination of focus groups, surveys and interviews to get this information. The researchers for this study have a lot of experience in working with immigrant populations on infectious diseases to determine their risk communication needs. This includes research with VFR travelers. The University of the Fraser Valley has partnerships with organizations (such as the Divisions of Family Practice and Community Services) that enable us to easily access research participants. They will also help us access their large and diverse international student body. Including researchers from other countries, like Australia and New Zealand, will help us make sure our research and recommendations can be part of a coordinated international response. Our research also includes senior people in the BC provincial health system to make sure our results can be quickly used in practice. $273,978
Wu, Cary York University (Toronto, Ontario) The dynamics of trust before, during, and after the COVID-19 outbreak The proposed research aims to study the COVID-19 outbreak and its relationship with four different kinds of trust, namely- trust in government, trust in health agencies, social trust in general others, and outgroup trust (e.g. Chinese and non-Chinese). We will undertake this research with a view to meeting two objectives. First, we seek to investigate how the pre and in-crisis trust context has shaped the response to COVID-19 in China and Canada (Objective 1). Second, we seek to understand how the COVID-19 outbreak response and experience then shaped the post-crisis context of trust in in China and Canada (Objective 2). The inclusion of both countries is vital not only for the possible control that Canada provides to the Chinese case, but also because it will allow for a more global picture of the impacts that the crisis had on individuals who are ethnically Chinese living outside of China. We will make these contributions by analyzing existing trust data collected prior to the outbreak (pre-crisis); by adding questions about the outbreak to current surveys being conducted on trust in China by team members (in-crisis rapid response conducted immediately); by conducting a new rapidly developed online survey to be administered in China and Canada (in-crisis rapid response conducted immediately; repeated post crisis), and by conducting focus groups with citizens in Chinese and Canadian cities (in crisis Canada only rapid response; repeated post crisis both countries). We anticipate that our team, which brings together experts in trust and health from the center of the outbreak in China, including in Wuhan city, as well as leading scholars on trust and public health in Canada and Sweden, is ideally positioned to conduct this research. As a result of team members' ongoing and previous collaborations we are well-poised for the rapid engagement that is urgently needed in order to meet the global challenge posed by the COVID-19 outbreak. $176,256
Driedger, S. Michelle University of Manitoba The Paradox of Precaution: Examining Public Health COVID- 19 Outbreak Management Strategies In any outbreak, public health focuses on surveillance, containment, and providing recommendations for how the public can stay safe: wash hands, cover coughs, stay home when sick, and get vaccinated if one is available. While this is similar messaging to what is heard in cold/flu season, what separates these events apart is the inherent uncertainty involved during the emergence of a novel virus.    However, when public health best practice (e.g. quarantining returning nationals from Wuhan) is attacked as putting people in "medical jails", or when the WHO implores governments for emergency resources to manage the outbreak by declaring the novel virus as "public enemy number one" akin to a "global threat potentially worse than terrorism", it creates a paradox around the concept of precaution. There is an urgent need to examine the cultural, social and political responses to the management of the  current outbreak in real time. The objectives of this research are: 1) to evaluate how cautionary public health messages for the outbreak are presented by the news media; 2) to evaluate whether public health agencies are using social media and how well these tools, if used, increase public understanding of these outbreaks; 3) to assess how members of the general public, including special targeted groups, understand the outbreak, both the risks of disease and the risks of contraction; 4) to evaluate how effectively members of the public feel they can protect themselves given public health outbreak communication, and how they make sense of this relative to seasonal influenza risk messaging; and 5) to assess public response to a novel vaccine if one becomes available. We will meet these objectives through a content analysis of news media stories / social media, and interviews with public health communication leads (objs 1&2) and focus groups/surveys with members of the general public and targeted communities (e.g. Indigenous peoples, Asians) in select Canadian cities (objs 3-5). $499,731
Veletsianos, George Royal Roads University (Victoria, BC) Inoculating Against an Infodemic: Microlearning Interventions to Address CoV Misinformation The effort seeks to improve personal health and the health of populations by combating misinformation and developing online learning interventions that improve people's knowledge, skills, beliefs, and behaviours related to COVID-19. In particular, the effort uses a design thinking approach to (1) examine digital misinformation flows pertaining to the outbreak; (2) develop, test, and improve educational interventions to reduce the spread of online misinformation.   The outcomes of the project will be: (1) the creation of effective COVID-19 educational interventions; (2) the provision of health-related information recommendations and resources to guide non-profits and other community groups who wish to educate the public; (3) the development of increased individual and community capacity to identify the differences between trustworthy and untrustworthy information on the virus; and (4) the mitigation of misinformation related to COVID-19.  To reach these outcomes, we will rapidly develop and deploy COVID- 19 educational interventions in a variety of cultural contexts. We will test and improve these interventions based on empirical data from a variety of sources including focus groups, surveys, social media, and field research. Instruments, data, and resources will be shared on an interactive website with licenses that allow others to reuse them for free. $477,683
Kothari, Anita R University of Western Ontario What is the public health risk communication response to COVID-19 in the context of social media? Keeping Canadians safe requires a robust public health system. This is especially true when there is a public health emergency, like the novel Coronavirus outbreak. Social media, like twitter and Facebook, is an important information channel because most people use the internet for their health information. The public health sector can use social media during emergency events for: 1) public health messaging, 2) monitoring misinformation, and 3) responding to questions and concerns raised by the public. In this study we ask: What is the public health risk communication response to an emergency infectious disease in the context of social media? We examine how provinces and provincial public health leaders, and the Public Health Agency of Canada and national public heath leaders engage with the public using social media during the Coronavirus event. We compare findings to provincial and national public heath social media activity before the emergency. We also compare findings to the gold standard - WHO social media activity during the emergency. Using our study findings, we will work with public health stakeholders to collaboratively develop a much- needed Canadian social media emergency response set of guideline recommendations for public health and other health system organizations. $129,595

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