DoM researchers among recipients of U of T support for high-impact coronavirus research projects through Toronto COVID-19 Action Fund

Apr 21, 2020
With files from Rahul Kalvapalle

Six projects led by Department of Medicine faculty members are among the 31 research projects that will be supported by the University of Toronto through the $8.4-million Toronto COVID-19 Action Fund. The fund was set up less than a month ago to support high-impact research by U of T and its hospital partners that contributes to the global fight against the novel coronavirus.

The projects, which range from medical interventions to measures aimed at supporting the economy and vulnerable populations, were chosen on the basis of their potential to have a positive impact on individuals, communities and public health systems within a timeframe of a year or less.

They were selected from among 338 applicants via a fast-tracked, peer-reviewed competition. Less than 30 days elapsed between the creation of the fund and the winning projects being announced.

“The Toronto COVID-19 Action Fund is a testament to the University of Toronto’s unique ability to quickly mobilize its resources, engage the creativity and ingenuity of its researchers and draw on the strength of its partnerships with partner hospitals to respond to the most urgent public health, economic and societal challenge of our time,” said Vivek Goel, U of T’s vice-president, research and innovation, and strategic initiatives.

“COVID-19 presents an array of unprecedented global problems that require urgent attention and expertise from experts in a wide variety of disciplines – from medical specialists and public health researchers to economists, social scientists and mathematicians.

“We are confident these projects will each, in their own way, make important contributions to the global fight against this pandemic.”

The 31 projects include an initiative to research the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic response on marginalized people, led by Ahmed Bayoumi, a professor in the department of medicine in the Faculty of Medicine and a scientist at the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute of St. Michael’s Hospital, part of Unity Health Toronto.

In the realm of medical interventions, Jordan Feld, associate professor in U of T’s department of medicine in the Faculty of Medicine and a senior scientist at the Toronto General Hospital Research Institute at the University Health Network, plans to carry out a phase two drug trial for the treatment of COVID-19.

“We would like to extend our thanks to all the scholars who submitted proposals to the Toronto COVID-19 Action Fund, and we will continue to work hard to find ways to support our researchers in their efforts to devise solutions to this crisis,” said Goel. “I would also like to thank the reviewers that provided assessment in a short period of time and our staff that worked diligently and around the clock to complete this record-setting peer review process.”

“U of T takes very seriously its public responsibility to make key contributions to the response to COVID-19, and I would like to congratulate everybody involved in the rapid creation and execution of the action fund for their tireless efforts.”

Goel noted that additional projects may be funded through the action fund as funds continue to be raised and additional partners contribute.  All those that were not selected are being directed to other funding sources, including those listed on the Centre for Research and Innovation Support’s COVID-19 research website.

Department of Medicine researchers being supported by the Toronto COVID-19 Action Fund are:

Ahmed Bayoumi: The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic response for people who are marginalized

Laurent Brochard: Careful ventilation in patients with ARDS induced by COVID-19

Angela Cheung: The Ontario COVID-19 prospective cohort study

Paul Dorian: Evaluation of a small gas-powered and patient-responsive automated resuscitation/ventilation

Jordan Feld: Interferon lambda for immediate antiviral therapy at diagnosis: a phase II randomized, open-label, multicentre trial to evaluate the effect of peginterferon lambda for the treatment of COVID-19

Allison McGeer: Working on control of COVID-19 outbreaks in long-term care