Four Faculty of Medicine researchers receive Ontario COVID-19 funding

Coronavirus molecules

Four faculty members from the Faculty of Medicine have been awarded funding as part of the Ontario COVID-19 Rapid Research Fund, a $20 million fund that contributes to national and global efforts to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.

Research descriptions from the funding announcement:

Dr. Jean-Simon Diallo, assistant professor in the Department of Biochemistry, Microbiology and Immunology and a scientist at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute received $444,833 for novel coronavirus antiviral drug discovery using high-throughput screening. 

“Using a novel bio-sensor that detects drugs that disrupt the attachment of coronaviruses to cells, this research will test approximately 1,200 approved drugs to better understand their potential to prevent viral infection in cells and their ability to block the interaction between COVID-19 and its receptor. A second phase of this study will attempt to identify novel antivirals from a small molecule library.”

Dr. Smita Pakhalé, associate professor in the School of Epidemiology and Public Health and a scientist at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute, was awarded $198,030 to study Canada's COVID-19 pandemic response and its impact on vulnerable communities. 

“Vulnerable populations face numerous social and health inequities that are exacerbated during times of crises (…) The objective of this research is to measure the impacts of COVID-19 public health emergency response efforts and communication strategies on Ottawa's low-income, homeless or at-risk for homelessness populations. The findings could help inform public health messaging strategies and pandemic approaches for vulnerable populations.”


Dr. Derek So, associate professor of cardiology in the Department of Medicine and a clinician investigator at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute, was awarded $751,520 to study the application of point-of-care COVID-19 testing to optimize patient care, resource allocation, and safety for frontline staff.

“This study [in collaboration with Spartan Biosciences] will determine the role of point-of-care testing as a tool to improve care of COVID-19 patients and conserve resources. A major obstacle facing hospitals during the COVID-19 outbreak is the inability to quickly diagnose who is infected with the virus. Delayed test results could mean that patients, who ultimately test negative, are treated for days utilising resources that could be better deployed elsewhere.”


Dr. Duncan Stewart, professor in the Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine and CEO and Scientific Director of the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute, received $1,226,245 to study cellular immuno-therapy for COVID-19 induced acute respiratory distress syndrome.

“Through a series of trials, this research will rapidly evaluate the safety and efficacy of using mesenchymal stromal/stem cells, or MSCs, to help treat patients with COVID-19 related acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). Up to 25 percent of all patients admitted to hospital require admission to an intensive care unit, and as many as 40 percent develop severe difficulty breathing due to ARDS.”

The announcement was made May 21st by Ontario Premier Doug Ford, Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, and Ross Romano, Minister of Colleges and Universities.


For more information:

Drs. Jean-Simon Diallo, Duncan Stewart, Derek So and Smita Pakhale, the Faculty's recipients of funding from the Ontario COVID-19 Rapid Research Fund.

From top-left to bottom-right: Drs. Jean-Simon Diallo, Duncan Stewart, Derek So and Smita Pakhalé.


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