Results will ‘provide key evidence to support our response in Canada’
The federal government is investing $14.3 million through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) to support new research on the COVID-19 virus variants.
This includes $5.3 million in supplementary funding for 90 ongoing COVID-19 projects and $9 million for the Coronavirus Variants Rapid Response Network (CoVaRR-Net), a new national network that will coordinate and align variants research throughout the country.
“We are investing in this research to accelerate our understanding of the COVID-19 variants and determine how we may need to adjust our strategies for protecting the safety of Canadians,” said Patty Hajdu, minister of health. “The results will contribute to global efforts to address the variants of the virus that have emerged and provide key evidence to support our response in Canada.”
The CoVaRR-Net will be led by Dr. Marc-André Langlois from the University of Ottawa. Dr. Langlois and his team will collaborate with the Public Health Agency of Canada's National Microbiology Lab (NML), the Canadian COVID-19 Genomics Network (CanCOGeN), provincial and territorial public health labs and other national and international bodies.
CoVaRR-Net will enable the rapid assessment of both the immune response to the virus variants and whether these variants are resistant to existing vaccines. The findings will provide decision makers with guidance regarding drug therapy, vaccine effectiveness, and other public health strategies.
On February 12, 2021, the Government of Canada announced an investment of $53 million in an integrated Variants of Concern Strategy that is guiding efforts to rapidly scale up surveillance, sequencing, and research efforts across the country.
The strategy is a partnership between the Public Health Agency of Canada's National Microbiology Laboratory, Health Canada, Genome Canada and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. As part of the strategy, CIHR is funding $14.3 million in new research on the COVID-19 variants and supporting CoVaRR-Net.
The most recent funding adds to the approximately $250 million that CIHR has invested to date in over 400 other COVID-19 research projects. CIHR will also support additional research related to variants and other COVID-19 priorities through an ongoing competition that will invest up to $119 million more in COVID-19 research.
In April 2020, the federal government invested $40 million to create the CanCOGeN to help understand the genetic variations of the virus as it evolves.
In September 2020, the government announced it is investing more than $4 million through the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council’s (SSHRC) Partnership Engage Grants to support 172 projects and almost 600 researchers working with businesses and community partners from across the country.