In May, it put a call out for work that would help to find treatments for COVID-19, a vaccine, or to improve conditions for front-line workers.
Thirteen projects have been pitched from across the country. Funding for the projects comes from the Canadian Institute of Health Research.
They focus on three key areas: therapeutics, or finding treatments or drugs that could potentially kill the virus; diagnostics, looking at faster tests that could require less data, such as testing for antibodies with a drop of blood rather than a larger amount; and looking at how to extend the life of personal protective equipment (PPE) like N95 masks.
“We want to know if a mask that has been refurbished, so put in an oven for example … still maintains the same performance,” explained CLS science director Gianluigi Botton.
He said a majority of these projects will rely on the institute’s synchrotron. The machine, the only one of its kind in Canada, uses a beam of light to study the virus’ structural matter.
“By understanding where the outcomes are in these molecules, we can develop therapeutics — so drugs, effectively — to be able to make the virus ineffective or just kill it,” Botton said.
“We use the synchrotron as one of the best weapons to study the virus and to understand the enemy essentially.”
That’s good news once the beam is ready to be used. It was shut off back in March, but the CLS said it should be ready for experiments in July.
Results from these experiments will also come faster than usual.
Typically, normal research takes up to three years to analyze results and publish a paper.
However, with the global interest in finding solutions sooner than later, Botton said outcomes from these experiments will be “much faster” though he could not give a definitive timeline.
Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:
Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.
To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out. In situations where you can’t keep a safe distance from others, public health officials recommend the use of a non-medical face mask or covering to prevent spreading the respiratory droplets that can carry the virus.
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