MSFHR Funds Two Additional COVID-19 Research Projects

30 March 2020

To support the provincial response to COVID-19, MSFHR is funding two urgent research projects at the request of the Provincial Health Officer.

The first will test and deliver candidate COVID-19 vaccines and clinical tools to meet the need for an effective vaccine that can be mass produced. The second project will survey British Columbians to assess knowledge, attitudes and behaviours around misinformation, personal protection and public health measures for COVID-19. These two projects are led by researchers from the University of British Columbia (UBC) and the BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC).

Developing candidate COVID-19 vaccines and clinical tools

Currently, the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, lacks a vaccine which makes it difficult to contain the spread of the disease. Dr. Wilfred Jefferies & his team from the Michael Smith Laboratories at UBC want to create a vaccine for COVID-19. Their research project will test and deliver candidate COVID-19 vaccines and clinical tools that will help with long-term containment of this disease. They are developing high-performance vaccines for mass production that will reduce the dose of the vaccine while still achieving maximum protection. The goal is to have a made-in-Canada vaccine that can be produced safely and efficiently and then mass distributed at a reasonable cost.

Surveying British Columbians to address the “infodemic” around COVID-19

The World Health Organization declared an “infodemic” regarding COVID-19 misinformation and the subsequent public health effects misinformation causes. Dr. Emily Rempel and her team at the BCCDC are surveying a diverse sample of British Columbians to understand the knowledge, attitudes and behaviours driven by COVID-19 misinformation in the BC population and to understand where British Columbians access information about COVID-19, what sources they trust and how they prefer to receive messages through a rapid response survey.

Survey results will identify specific communication needs among different populations within BC, the types of misinformation beliefs that drive behavioural coping strategies, and the types of information that our population will want to learn more about. Having access to this type of data will improve effective communication strategies among all communities during this ongoing pandemic.

These projects are in addition to the two projects announced March 12; research to track the transmission of COVID-19 in B.C, led by Dr. Naveed Janjua and Dr. Michael Otterstatter; and a second project, led by Dr. Danuta Skowronski to study the susceptibility of British Columbians to the virus.

As BC’s health research funding agency, MSFHR has historically played a key role in providing urgent health research funding when emergencies arise and BC needs critical health research data. In 2003, MSFHR supported vaccine development to combat the SARS virus and in 2009, MSFHR supported work to identify groups most at risk for contracting the Swine flu (pH1N1).