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COVID-19 rapid research funding for PHRI studies

John Eikelboom

A total of 17 McMaster University research projects, including a couple led by PHRI scientists, are among the recipients of the Canadian federal government’s most recent COVID-19 rapid research response grants, announced today.

John Eikelboom, Senior Scientist, PRI, is receiving $2,937,119 from the Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR) for Anti-Coronavirus Therapy (ACT) to prevent COVID-19 disease progression: a clinical trial platform.

Darryl Leong

Darryl Leong, Scientist, PHRI, is receiving $2,066,870 from the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) for PURE SARS-CoV-2, a substudy of Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology study, looking at factors that increase the risk of people getting infected by COVID-19 or that protect against infection; and the long-term health effects of getting infected by COVID-19. Specifically, the study team wants to know whether having had COVID-19 infection – even if symptoms were not severe – can lead to long-term lung damage and other complications, like pneumonia, heart attacks, heart failure, stroke.

More details on all 17 of the McMaster University award recipients in the article,“McMaster scoops up $20M more for COVID-19 research.”

Anti-Coronavirus Therapy (ACT) to prevent COVID-19 disease progression: a clinical trial platform

COVID-19 has been diagnosed in millions of persons and has caused several hundred thousand deaths. Effective treatments are urgently required. We have created the “Anti-Coronavirus Therapies (ACT) to prevent COVID-19 disease progression” trials platform to rapidly evaluate whether several commonly available interventions can be repurposed for the treatment of COVID-19 disease. The specific aims of our research are to determine whether treatments that:

(a) reduce the levels of virus in the body

(b) reduce the response by the body to the infection (i.e., inflammation), and

(c) prevent blood clotting can prevent COVID-19 disease progression.

We will test these treatments alone and in combination in two trials:

(1) Outpatient trial: here we are trying to patients diagnosed with COVID-19 from needing to go to hospital.

(2) Inpatient trial: here we are trying to prevent patients with COVID-19 who are already hospitalized from being admitted to the intensive care unit and from dying.

The trial started in Canada on April 21 and will eventually include about 4,000 patients from at least 100 centres and at least 12 countries around the world.

PURE SARS-CoV-2: A Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology (PURE) Substudy

In this study, we aim to find answers to two important unknowns about COVID-19:

1) We do not know if there are factors that increase the risk of people getting infected by COVID-19 or that protect against infection; and

2) What are the long-term health effects of getting infected by COVID-19? Specifically, we want to know whether having had COVID-19 infection – even if symptoms were not severe – can lead to long-term lung damage and other complications, like pneumonia, heart attacks, heart failure, stroke.

We will find these answers by studying 40,000 adults from 30 communities in 13 high-, middle- and low-income countries. These individuals have already agreed to participate in an ongoing study called the PURE study. They have already provided us with a lot of information about their health, behaviours and medications and we have performed physical measurements and tested their lung function.

In the PURE SAR-CoV-2 study, we propose testing the blood of these individuals for signs of COVID-19 infection. We can then see if people who had COVID-19 exhibited particular characteristics, such as smoking, alcohol use or low physical activity that increased their risk of getting COVID-19.

Because people with bad COVID-19 infection often get damaged lungs, we will test the lung function of participants to see if silent or mild infection lead to injured lungs as well.

Finally, we will follow the study participants up for 3 years more to see whether people who had COVID-19 infection develop late complications such as lung disease, heart or circulatory problems more often than people who did not get COVID-19. This unique study will provide information to guide us as individuals and as communities on how best to avoid getting COVID-19 and on potential harmful long-term consequences of infection for which we need to prepare.