Ontario Announces Next Round of Research Projects to Fight COVID-19

Ontario Announces Next Round of Research Projects to Fight COVID-19

The Ontario government unveiled the second round of research projects approved and supported through the $20 million Ontario COVID-19 Rapid Research Fund. Through these efforts, researchers will be working to find ways to prevent, detect and treat COVID-19. See below for a complete list. 

The Antithrombotic Therapy to Ameliorate Complications of COVID-19 (ATTACC) Trial: A Multinational Randomized, Adaptive, Controlled Clinical Trial – Support for Personnel at the International Clinical Coordinating Centre in Ontario

Patrick Lawler, Principal Investigator

University Health Network

In partnership with hospitals from across Canada, the United States, Brazil and Mexico, researchers will test a blood thinner called heparin, which may also have anti-viral and anti-inflammatory effects, for its effectiveness in treating COVID-19 patients who require ventilation. This trial has the potential to reduce mortality and need for mechanical ventilation in hospitalized patients with COVID-19.

Development and Validation of Flexible Medium Throughput Solutions for COVID-19 Diagnostics

Myron Cybulsky, Principal Investigator

University Health Network

As workplaces reopen, extensive molecular screening will be vital to identify asymptomatic and presymptomatic individuals. To maintain safe work environments, this research will evaluate methods of diagnosing COVID-19 including point-of-care methods that will be adaptable to nasal swab, saliva and saline gargle testing. The researchers will also develop standard operating procedures for these tests, based on rigorous clinical standards.

Ontario’s Response to COVID-19: Balancing Trade-offs and Improving Outcomes for all Ontarians

Beate Sander, Principal Investigator

University Health Network

Using the COvid19 Resource Estimator model, which is already extensively used by decision-makers and hospital administrators to support capacity planning and public health interventions, researchers will forecast COVID-19 case numbers under a range of re-opening scenarios and examine the effects of these potential cases on the Ontario acute care system and on short- and long-term health outcomes for COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patients. This research will help to optimize mitigation strategies that balance healthcare system capacity, population health and broader societal outcomes, including the economic impact.

How to Re-open Ontario’s Economy Without Causing a Resurgence of COVID-19

Chris Bauch, Principal Investigator

University of Waterloo

Researchers will develop a mathematical model of COVID-19 transmission that can identify strategies for re-opening the economy without causing a resurgence of COVID-19. The model will use available demographic and epidemiological data from provinces and important features such as spatial and age structure, to create detailed maps of COVID-19 rates by province. The model will project cases, hospitalizations and deaths under different approaches to re-opening the economy.

Proposal for Validation of a New SARS-CoV-2 Diagnostic Test Enabling Safe, At-home Collection and Increased Provincial Testing Capacity

Katherine Siminovitch, Principal Investigator

Sinai Health System

This project will test the efficacy of saliva-based sample collection to diagnose COVID-19 in patients in an effort to improve testing capacity across Ontario. Recent data suggests that saliva samples are more sensitive for SARS-CoV-2 detection compared to nasal swabs and this procedure is less invasive and can be self-administered at home.

Canadian COVID-19 Emergency Department Rapid Response Network – Ontario Sites

Steven Brooks, Principal Investigator

Queen’s University

This project aims to develop a provincial registry of suspected and confirmed COVID-19 patients in emergency departments across Ontario. Through a collaboration involving emergency departments across Canada we will also be contributing data to a national registry. The registry will support the development of clinical decision rules to improve screening procedures, diagnostic studies (e.g. swabs and imaging), therapeutics (e.g. intubation) and the selection of patients for discharge or admission. This project is designed to improve care for patients treated during the COVID-19 crisis and will also support planning for future pandemics.

Ontario Healthcare Worker Seroprevalence of Anti-SARS-CoV-2 Antibodies (COVID-19 Antibodies in Ontario Healthcare Workers)

Michelle Science and Aaron Campigotto, Co-Principal Investigators

Hospital for Sick Children

Healthcare workers have a critical role in the pandemic response to COVID-19 and are at risk of infection. The objective of this study is to assess the prevalence of anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibodies in a population of healthcare workers and describe the change in SARS-CoV-2 specific antibodies as the pandemic progresses. The research will also track the antibody response in those who are infected with COVID-19 and if possible, evaluate the impact of antibody presence on subsequent reinfection.

This research will shed light on the incidence of infection and risk factors for infection in healthcare workers from hospitals across Ontario.

Interferon Lambda for Immediate Antiviral Therapy at Diagnosis (ILIAD): A Phase II Randomized, Open-label, Multicenter Trial to Evaluate the Effect of Peginterferon Lambda for the Treatment of COVID-19

Jordan Feld, Principal Investigator

University Health Network

Researchers will evaluate the drug peginterferon-lambda (PegIFN-) in ambulatory and hospitalized patients with mild to moderate COVID-19. Peginterferon-lambda has already been used to treat other viral diseases, such as hepatitis B and C. This research will shed light on whether it improves the ability of individuals to clear the virus that causes COVID-19.

Natural Evolution of Serum Antibodies in Children and Adults with SARS-CoV-2 and Household Contacts

Maala Bhatt and Roger Zemek, Co-Principal Investigators

Children’s Hospital, Eastern Ontario Research Institute

This project will provide insight into how COVID-19 spreads within households, following the World Health Organization’s recommendation to survey antibody testing of children, non-hospitalized adults and household contacts. This study will explore the differences in antibody response in children, as well as differences in initial symptoms by age and sex. This will be done by measuring the number of antibodies within a person’s blood (four times over a period of 12 months).

Development of Multiple Vaccine Candidates for SARSCoV-2 and Evaluation of Safety and Efficacy in Animal Models

Rob Kozak, Principal Investigator

Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre

This project aims to evaluate the safety and long-term protection of two vaccines before advancing them to human trials. The study will test the duration of protective vaccine immunity in both small and large animal models and investigate whether vaccinated animals that are infected with seasonal coronaviruses have adverse immunological reactions, leading to worse disease. The data generated from this proposal will help determine the optimal vaccine to advance into human efficacy trials.

Adaptive Immunity and Outcomes of Convalescent Plasma

Rulan Parekh, Principal Investigator

Hospital for Sick Children

This national study of plasma donors who have recovered from COVID-19 will address immune response, duration of protective immunity, clinical factors and host genetics contributing to the variability of immune response to the virus. The researchers will also study long-term outcomes from COVID-19 infection to help define therapeutic strategies for COVID-19.

Methylene Blue-mediated Photodisinfection for SARSCoV-2 in the Upper Respiratory Tract

Cari Whyne, Principal Investigator

Sunnybrook Research Institute

This project will test symptomatic and asymptomatic individuals with known SARS-CoV-2 diagnoses to asses whether a process called photodisinfection (PDF) using methylene blue, a medication and dye, can identify and destroy pathogens to clear SARS-CoV-2 from the upper respiratory tract.

Development of High Throughput, Inexpensive and Scalable Testing to Detect SARS-CoV-2 Antibodies Using Home Blood Collection Kits and a Fully Automated ELISA Antibody Assay

Keith Jarvi, Principal Investigator

Sinai Health System

To address the need for widely available testing for past COVID-19 infections, this project will develop a “home” blood collection kit to provide a high volume, inexpensive, accurate and easy-to-use test for SARS-CoV-2 antibody detection. The development of an inexpensive and simple antibody test has the potential to be rapidly scaled up and be readily available to very large populations of Canadians.

Volunteers will have repeat blood antibody testing 3 and 6 months following the initial test to provide data on their past COVID-19 infections, the incidence of new COVID-19 infections and if immunity exists.

An Optimized Clinical Lab COVID-19 Diagnostic Test Incorporating Host Transcriptomic Responses for Predicting Disease Course and Healthcare System Utilization

Jeremy Hirota, Principal Investigator

McMaster University

By analyzing nasal swabs used for testing COVID-19 patients, this research aims to understand how individuals respond to the virus upon diagnosis. This study will better identify and treat patients who are at risk of developing serious complications and provide predictive capacity for hospitals to efficiently prepare and allocate resources for optimal patient health.

Toolkit to Prevent COVID-19 Transmission among Persons with Dementia in Long-Term Care

Andrea Iaboni, Principal Investigator

University Health Network

This research team will develop, implement and evaluate a Dementia Isolation Toolkit for long-term care homes to support the compassionate, safe and effective isolation of people with dementia and to improve the implementation of infection control protocols in these centres. Researchers will design a series of tools to provide methods and approaches for isolating people with dementia safely and without compromising their dignity and personhood.

Creating an N95 Respirator Disinfection to Protect Front Line Health Care Workers During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Gregory Borschel, Principal Investigator

Hospital for Sick Children

N95 respirators are designed to be single use, but by extending their lifespan this project could assure more protection of Ontario’s front line workers. The researchers will create a system that will provide a low-cost decontamination process for safe re-use of N95 respirators during the COVID-19 pandemic. To extend the N95 respirator supply, the project will validate two forms of thermal disinfection (dry heat and humid heat). The system will be tested within 30-60 days in a large Toronto hospital, and, once validated and approved, could be scalable Ontario-wide as needed.

RdRp as a Promising Target to Identify Lead Compounds for the Treatment of COVID-19: a Rapid Structure-Based Approach

Gennady Poda, Principal Investigator

Ontario Institute for Cancer Research

This study aims to identify new therapeutics and existing drugs that could be reused for the treatment of COVID-19 infections. Using supercomputers and advanced computational chemistry techniques, Dr. Poda and collaborators at Sunnybrook Research Institute will focus on finding drugs that can stop the virus from replicating in the body by targeting the virus’ key polymerase enzyme. This approach will allow scientists to rapidly advance new COVID-19 treatments.

Co-creating Innovative Strategies to Address the Well-being of Older Persons and Their Healthcare Providers During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Sepali Guruge, Principal Investigator

Ryerson University

Most deaths from COVID-19 have been among the elderly population in Ontario. This study will examine how the care of older persons has changed during the pandemic and how these changes are affecting the mental health and well-being of healthcare providers. It will also identify innovative strategies providers have developed to overcome these changes. Findings will provide informationto improve the care for older persons during the crisis while protecting the health and well-being of frontline workers caring for older persons.

Control of COVID-19 Outbreaks in Long-Term Care: A Randomized Controlled Trial of Chemoprophylaxis to Control Outbreaks of COVID19 in Long Term Care Facilities (CONTROL-COVID)

Allison McGeer, Principal Investigator

Lunenfeld Tanenbaum Research Institute, Sinai Health System

The frail elderly are disproportionately affected by COVID-19. Interventions are urgently needed to prevent and control outbreaks at long-term care homes. This research will use clinical trials to test the efficacy of different chemoprophylaxis regimens to protect elderly residents of long-term care homes from COVID-19.

Proposal for the Use of Inhaled Anesthetic-Based Sedation in Ventilated COVID-19 Patients: Novel Approach to Shorten Duration of Ventilation, Preserve Intravenous Sedation Stocks and Improve Survival

Marat Slessarev, Principal Investigator

Lawson Health Research Institute

Through a randomized clinical trial, this project aims to better understand the efficacy of inhaled anesthetic-based sedation to treat COVID-19 patients who require ventilation. This research could reduce the duration of mechanical ventilation, alleviating the stress on ventilator capacity; spare the use of intravenous sedation agents that are in short supply; and reduce mortality from COVID-19. If found effective, inhaled anesthetics can be quickly deployed in the fight against COVID-19 since they are safe, inexpensive and readily available.

Call to Action: To learn more about the Ontario COVID-19 Rapid Research Fund, visit their site here