null Results of MI4 Emergency COVID-19 Research Funding (Round 1)

RI-MUHC researchers awarded MUHC Foundation funding for projects with potential impact in a short timeframe

Apr. 14, 2020

Source: MI4 and McGill News Alumni Magazine. Thanks to the generous support of the McGill University Health Centre Foundation and its partners, the McGill Interdisciplinary Initiative in Infection and Immunity (MI4) has awarded funding for 16 projects in Round 1 of the MI4 Emergency COVID-19 Research Funding (ECRF) program with a value allocation of approximately $1,500,000. Thirteen members of the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC) are among the lead investigators on newly funded projects selected for their innovation, feasibility and potential to have impact within a short timeframe.


Together with MI4 colleagues, RI-MUHC researchers will lead the following projects:

A large-scale, worldwide study on mental health impacts of COVID-19 and mitigation efforts like social distancing, particularly on people already suffering from chronic medical conditions and a trial of an intervention designed to reduce negative mental health effects.

  • Andrea Benedetti, Susan Bartlett, and MI4 colleagues Brett Thombs, Linda Kwakkenbos, John Varga, Scott Patten, Nicole Culos-Reed and Shannon Hebblethwaite

Using statistical and mathematical models of COVID-19 disease transmission to provide daily provincial-level updates on the state of the epidemic in Quebec and Canada. This will inform government decision-making by providing real-time forecasts of the rate of COVID-19 spread, the demand on health care, and the impact of social distancing measures and other preventive strategies.

  • David Buckeridge and MI4 colleagues Mathieu Maheu-Giroux, Dimitra Panagiotoglou, Alexandra Schmidt, Nicole Basta, Yiqing Xia, Arnaud Godin and Dirk Douwes-Schultz

Developing drugs that can prevent coronavirus from moving from one cell to another, potentially stopping the disease before it can spread throughout the body.

Looking at how targeting the gut microbiome—the vast microbial community living in the intestine— might offer treatment options for COVID-19. This study builds on existing evidence that the gut microbiome affects our immune response to respiratory infection, that evidence of the disease shows up in fecal swabs and stool samples, and that COVID-19 patients with gastrointestinal symptoms often experience worse outcomes.

A Quebec-wide trial to test the efficacy of hydroxychloroquine—a malaria medication that has produced some limited positive results in smaller studies which require confirmation — for both prevention and early treatment of COVID-19. Dr. Todd C. Lee is coordinating a national trial involving other provinces, partnered with a U.S.-led study in order to find answers in the shortest time possible.

A clinical trial to test the efficacy of existing drugs against COVID-19, in the hope that they may improve outcomes as a vaccine is being developed. This effort is part of a larger, global initiative under the auspices of the World Health Organization.

Examining the medical and economic costs and benefits of multiple different COVID-19 testing strategies: expanded but targeted testing of individuals, particularly all contacts of confirmed cases; testing all essential workers; testing all workers and students; and universal testing. This data can inform testing policy in Quebec, in Canada and other countries.

Working with international collaborators to better understand the immune response to COVID-19, defining how antiviral immunity functions at a molecular level, in order to develop tests to determine who is immune, and inform vaccine development.

A randomized clinical trial to determine if a class of commonly prescribed drugs used for patients with cardiovascular diseases and high blood pressure contributes to outcomes among individuals with a COVID-19 infection. This study will provide important guidance for managing heart disease and high blood pressure during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Undertaking a clinical study to identify biomarkers that can help predict disease outcomes and response to treatment in individual patients. This study is funded by the Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR) and linked to a global effort to identify effective biomarkers for COVID-19.

  • Erwin Schurr and MI4 colleagues Matthew Cheng and Guillaume Bourque

Studying how highly targeted testing strategies might reduce the length of time that health care workers must spend in isolation following exposure to COVID-19. The goal is to use early, targeted viral testing to identify those healthcare workers who can safely return to work as early as one week before the full 14-day quarantine is completed while ensuring those who are infectious remain in isolation, thereby preserving this vital workforce while making sure patients are safe.

Developing large-scale, local production of the key ingredients needed for COVID-19 testing. Currently, these materials are made out of the country, and Canada must compete for scarce supplies. The project aims to ensure an adequate supply of tests for Canadians and support expanded testing strategies to help control the spread of COVID-19 more effectively.

This funding was made possible by the generosity of the Hewitt Foundation, the late Elspeth McConnell, and the Trottier Family Foundation, through their donations to the MUHC Foundation. The Division of Cardiology at the McGill University Health Centre and the McGill Centre for Structural Biology also provided co-funding, each supporting one of the proposals.

MI4 is currently accepting proposals under Round 2 of the ECRF. Please refer to the MI4 website for the list of all projects funded in Round 1 and information on the next call for proposals.

Related news
“Emergency fund supports MI4 research on COVID-19,” McGill News Alumni Magazine
“MI4 Addressing the Threat of Coronavirus,” McGill University Health Centre Foundation