Mitigating the epidemic: uOttawa at the heart of Canada’s response to COVID-19

Posted on Friday, March 6, 2020

Researcher in lab holding container filled with blue liquid


Five University of Ottawa researchers receive funding to participate in Canada’s rapid research response to fight coronavirus

As the number of reported cases and countries affected by the coronavirus keep increasing, the entire research community is engaged in a race against the clock to develop an effective vaccine. Canada is actively participating in this international effort.

In 2019, the world saw the emergence of a virus that causes viral pneumonia in humans, causing acute respiratory distress and death in an estimated 0.2% to 5% of cases. Named coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) the virus endemic to wild animals has since adapted to infect humans. The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared this outbreak of the novel coronavirus a global health emergency.

An epidemic to which there is currently no effective antiviral treatment.

To address this global health emergency, the Government of Canada will invest close to $27M in medical, social and policy countermeasures research so that leading experts across the country work to find tangible solutions to mitigate this health crisis.

The emergence of COVID-19 has also clearly demonstrated the need for clear, timely and accessible information from trusted sources to counter the dissemination of false information, incidents of racism, and generalized panic in the population.

The University of Ottawa will receive more than $2M in research funding.

Some of the leading researchers who will play a key role in Canada’s response to the global Coronavirus epidemic include uOttawa’s own:  

Maxim Berezovski (Faculty of Science) is a professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biomolecular Sciences who heads the Bioanalytical and Molecular Interaction Laboratory. He has assembled a team of specialists in chemistry, infectious diseases and clinical diagnostics to develop low-cost, rapid and simple point-of-care diagnostic tests that are urgently needed to quickly diagnose and isolate those who are infected with the coronavirus.


Patrick Fafard (Faculty of Social Sciences) is a professor in the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, Associate Director of the Global Strategy Lab, and an expert on public health policy. He will lead an international team that will investigate how senior government officials communicate public health advice. Their research will also assess the extent to which the public understands and trusts government messaging. Professor Fafard’s research will contribute to public health response strategies for mitigating the spread of infectious disease in Canada, as well as in four other countries with similar health systems.


Ronald Labonté (Faculty of Medicine) is a professor in the School of Epidemiology and Public Health and an expert in the global governance of infectious disease and antimicrobial resistance. As the coronavirus outbreak continues to unfold, Professor Labonté will study the implementation of the World Health Organization’s One Health principles in the governance of infectious disease in Canada and abroad. His main objective is to foster evidence-based public health response strategies to the coronavirus and to enhance international collaboration to mitigate its spread.


Marc-André Langlois (Faculty of Medicine) is a professor in the Department of Biochemistry, Microbiology and Immunology and the director of the CL2+ Biocontainment Laboratory. A molecular virologist, Professor Langlois will lead a multidisciplinary team that includes researchers at the National Research Council. Together they will develop genetically engineered antibodies to be used as therapeutic agents to limit the spread of the coronavirus and help identify the virus in patient samples. The team will also develop a diagnostic tool that can be easily deployed in clinics, in the field and in remote areas. The most ambitious objective will be to develop a low-cost nasal spray vaccine using plants to express virus proteins.


Kumanan Wilson (Faculty of Medicine research) is a professor in the School of Epidemiology and Public Health, a senior scientist at The Ottawa Hospital and an innovation advisor at the Bruyère Research Institute. He and his team will be evaluating Canada’s role in the global response to the coronavirus outbreak. They will look at Canada’s preparedness and response, and how well it has complied with the International Health Regulations. Based at the Bruyère Research Institute, the study will help identify opportunities for Canada to help international health authorities respond to public health emergencies.


These investigators and their respective research teams possess the required expertise, tools, and infrastructures required to promptly mobilize and contribute to the global response against COVID-19, and better prepare us collectively against future outbreaks of new strains of coronaviruses.


For media enquiries:
Isabelle Mailloux Pulkinghorn
Manager, media relations
University of Ottawa


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