McGill researchers awarded $2.5M for COVID-19 infrastructure

New CFI funding will help equip researchers to tackle the pandemic
McGill recipients of the CFI Exceptional Opportunities Fund, (top l to r): Brent Richards, Amine Kamen. Bottom (l to r): Ioannis Ragoussis, Gonzalo Cosa and Marcel Behr

Five projects led by McGill University researchers are included among the 79 receiving a total of $28 million in research infrastructure support through the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) Exceptional Opportunities Fund. The announcement was made on November 6, by the Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry.

The continuing threat of COVID-19 is a global concern for human health and a key driver of healthcare system costs, human lives lost and economic turmoil. Whether developing a vaccine, learning about how COVID-19 affects the human body or studying how the pandemic has influenced every aspect of our lives, Canada’s researchers rely on cutting-edge research infrastructure to do their work.

“As the COVID pandemic continues, McGill researchers have shown again and again how resilient and resourceful they are,” says Prof. Martha Crago, Vice-Principal (Research and Innovation) at McGill. “This valuable support from CFI provides new and improved equipment for their important work on this and other viruses.”

The exceptional projects at McGill the CFI is supporting with research infrastructure funding include:

  • $1 060 682 for Containment Level 3 Lab Capacity to Support Research on Preventives and Therapeutics for COVID-19
    Led by Dr. Marcel Behr, this funding will provide the equipment needed to safely conduct studies on the SARS-CoV-2 virus, both grown in cells and following in vivo experimental infections. This equipment will be housed within already-approved containment level 3 labs at McGill and the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre. This funding will enable McGill to furnish these safe spaces with essential equipment that will enable cutting-edge research for the development of new tools to combat the pandemic, in Canada and beyond.
  • $551 077 for High Throughput SARS-CoV-2 Genome Sequencing at the McGill Genome Center
    Led by Ioannis Ragoussis, the equipment and computational infrastructure supported through this funding will allow researchers to create a highly automated workflow in order to double current production rates and reduce response time in producing genomic sequencing data used to inform public health decisions.
  • $434 932 for Intensification of Production Process for COVID-19 Recombinant Vaccine Candidates
    Led by Prof. Amine Kamen, this funding will advance two manufacturing platforms using mammalian cell lines (HEK-293 and Vero cells) for high cell densities production of COVID-19 sub-units and vectored-vaccine candidates.
  • $282 251 for the Biobanque Québec COVID19: An Open Science Platform for Canadian COVID19 Research
    Led by Brent Richards, this funding will help acquire the infrastructure required to process thousands of biological samples and the hundreds of millions of data points that will be generated at the Jewish General Hospital. This data will enable hundreds of research programs from academics and industrial partners to meet the challenges brought upon us by COVID-19 to better understand the pandemic.
  • $209 015 Single Molecule Fluorescence Infrastructure for Biophysical Studies on SARS-CoV-2 Viral Genome-replication Machinery
    Led by Gonzalo Cosa, these funds will be used for a state-of-the-art infrastructure for single molecule fluorescence studies that seek to unravel the workings of the viral genome-replication machinery at the molecular level and to translate this knowledge to drug therapies.

The Exceptional Opportunities Fund is designed for those few instances when an exceptional research opportunity would be missed if a project had to wait to undergo the normal course of a national competition before a decision could be made.

In response to the current pandemic, the CFI launched EOF–COVID-19 competitions for universities, research hospitals, and colleges, polytechnics and CÉGEPS with the objective of supporting urgent needs for equipment for ongoing research related
to COVID-19.

Read the CFI press release