The Ottawa Hospital awarded $4.7 million for COVID-19 research from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research

Research projects focus on vaccine development, cell therapy, pregnancy, marginalized populations, emergency medicine and blood clots

June 25, 2020

Researchers at The Ottawa Hospital, affiliated with the University of Ottawa, have been awarded $4.7 million from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) for four research projects that could transform our understanding of COVID-19 and lead to new approaches for prevention and treatment.

The funding is part of an overall investment of $109 million from the Government of Canada, through the second round of the COVID-19 Rapid Research Response Funding Opportunity. In total, researchers at The Ottawa Hospital, the University of Ottawa and the University of Ottawa Heart Institute were awarded $8.6 million in this peer-reviewed grant competition.

Researchers at The Ottawa Hospital are also contributing to at least 12 of the newly-funded COVID-19 research projects led by other institutions, and co-leading two of these.

The projects led at The Ottawa Hospital include:

Harnessing cancer-fighting viruses to develop a COVID-19 vaccine

Drs. John Bell, Carolina Ilkow, Réjean Lapointe, Douglas Mahoney and colleagues were awarded $1.9 million to rapidly create and test several potential COVID-19 vaccines in animal models. This research will build on the team’s unique experience in developing cancer-fighting viruses and studying how viruses interact with the immune system. Co-Investigators: Jonathan Angel, Rebecca Auer, Rudolf Bohm, Jean-Francois Cailhier, Bill Cameron, Jean-Simon Diallo, Michael Jamieson, Craig Jenne, Kasi Russell-Lodrigue. Learn more.

Using cell therapy to calm the immune system in critically ill patients 

Drs. Duncan Stewart, Shane English, Dean Fergusson and colleagues were awarded $1.9 million to determine if a type of cell therapy can reduce the damaging, overactive immune response often seen in critically ill COVID-19 patients. The therapy, using cells derived from umbilical cord blood, will be tested in a randomized, controlled clinical trial in several centres across Canada. Co-Investigators: Michaël Chassé, David Courtman, Claudia dos Santos, Michael Jamieson, Manoj Lalu, Bernard Thébaud. Learn more.

Understanding the impact of COVID-19 on pregnant women and babies

Drs. Darine El-Chaâr, Marc-André Langlois and colleagues were awarded $796,000 to investigate the impact of COVID-19 on pregnant women and their babies, including whether a mother can pass COVID-19 to her child during pregnancy. These findings will inform care practices, as well as informing evidence-based counselling to families about maintaining the health and safety of their newborns. Co-Investigators: Mark Walker, Malia Murphy, Katherine Muldoon, Bill Cameron, Michaeline McGuinty, David Millar, Jessica Dy, Angela Crawley, Shannon Bainbridge, Dina El Demellawy, Deshayne Fell, Jason Brophy, Sarah Lawrence, Nisha Thampi, Anne Sprague, Susan Thorne, Stephanie Palerme, Laura Gaudet, Jon Barrett, Howard Berger, Barbra de Vrijer, André LaRoche, Sarah McDonald, Elad Mei-Dan, John Snelgrove, Jocelyn Cook. Learn more.

Understanding the challenge of COVID-19 for Ottawa’s most vulnerable people

Dr. Smita Pakhale, Josephine Etowa and colleagues were awarded $129,000 to investigate how the pandemic has affected those who are low-income, homeless, and at-risk of homelessness. Data co-collected and co-analyzed with people of lived experience could lead to the development of better policies and programs to help vulnerable populations during COVID-19 and future crises. Co-Investigators: Hector Addison, Ann Dale, Terry Hegarty, Maisam Najafizada, Sanni Yaya, Suzanne Bouclin, Kelly Florence, Sadia Jama, Rob Boyd, Tim Ramsay, Mohamed Gazarin, Chinnaiah Jangam, Peter Selby, Sylvie Grosjean, Eric Crighton, Darlene Kitty, Kednapa Thavorn. Learn more.

Projects co-led by researchers at The Ottawa Hospital include:

Creating a national emergency department network to improve care for COVID-19 patients

Dr. Jeffrey Perry is one of eight Canadian emergency physicians and researchers co-leading the new Canadian COVID-19 Emergency Department Rapid Response Network. The network, which was awarded $2.1 million, will collect data and develop evidence-based tools to help emergency physicians provide the best possible care for people with COVID-19. Principal Investigators: Corinne Michele Hohl, Elyse Berger Pelletier, Braden John Manns, Kieran Michael Moore, Eddy Samuel Lang, Laurie Jean Morrison, Jeffrey Joseph Perry, Rhonda Jean Rosychuk. Co-Investigators: P. Archambault, S. Brooks, C. Chabot, P. Davis, P. Fok, T. Jelic, A. McRae.

Studying blood clots in recovered COVID-19 patients

Severe COVID-19 infection increases the risk of developing potentially deadly blood clots, but it is unclear how long this risk continues after patients recover from their infection. Dr. Deborah Siegal, Dr. Marc Carrier and colleagues were awarded $304,000 to study the risk of blood clots in recovered COVID-19 patients, and to explore related aspects of awareness and virtual care. Co-Investigators: M. Arsenault, A. Cuker, J. Douketis, P. Gross, M. Koolian, G. Le Gal, A. Lee, G. Roberge, S. Shivakumar, L. Skeith, C. Wu.

“Researchers at The Ottawa Hospital have done a remarkable job of applying their unique expertise to help in the global fight against COVID-19,” said Dr. Duncan Stewart, Executive Vice-President of Research at The Ottawa Hospital and professor at the University of Ottawa. “This support from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research will greatly accelerate our efforts, and hopefully save and improve lives.”  

Generous donors in the community have also played a key role in enabling COVID-19 research at The Ottawa Hospital. The Ottawa Hospital Foundation’s COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund has provided seed funding for 21 COVID-19 research and innovation projects so far, and every dollar donated to COVID-19 research has resulted in an average of 15 dollars in external funding from organizations such as CIHR. The Ottawa Hospital Foundation also supports core resources and infrastructure essential for all research at The Ottawa Hospital.

Support research at The Ottawa Hospital and make a difference for patients in Ottawa and around the world.

The Ottawa Hospital is one of Canada’s top learning and research hospitals, where excellent care is inspired by research and driven by compassion. As the third-largest employer in Ottawa, our support staff, researchers, nurses, physicians, and volunteers never stop seeking solutions to the most complex health-care challenges. Our multi-campus hospital, affiliated with the University of Ottawa, attracts some of the most influential scientific minds from around the world. Backed by generous support from the community, we are committed to providing the world-class, compassionate care we would want for our loved ones. 

Media Contact 
Amelia Buchanan
Senior Communication Specialist
Ottawa Hospital Research Institute
Office: 613-798-5555 x 73687
Cell: 613-297-8315