A Message from Gairdner on COVID-19

Organic chemistry

The Gairdner Foundation recognizes how unsettling and scary the news about the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak can be, and there is a lot of new information to process every day.

At Gairdner, we pride ourselves on recognizing the world’s best researchers with our awards and we are proud that many of our laureates are leading the charge in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. Two of our John Dirks Canada Gairdner Global Health laureates Dr. Tony Fauci (2016),  referred to by The New Yorker as “America’s Doctor” and Dr. Peter Piot Dr. Fauci and Dr. Piot have been quoted widely across North America, the United Kingdom and around the world, sharing their knowledge, insights and recommendations.

Dr. Christopher Murray, 2018 John Dirks Canada Gairdner Global Health Award laureate, and his team at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation have developed a new COVID-19 forecasting model. The projections show demand for hospital services state by state as well as COVID-19 death predictions across the US. These projections are updated daily, you can find them here.

In addition, a group of Australian researchers is currently investigating the whether there are any human benefits of the FDA-approved drug Ivermectin, which has shown to inhibit the replication of SARS-CoV-2 in vitro. Ivermectin was discovered by Dr. Satoshi Omura, 2014 John Dirks Canada Gairdner Global Health laureate and developed by Merck. You can read their paper, published late last week at the link below.

Dr. Jennifer Doudna, 2016 Canada Gairdner International Award laureate, has led a team of academic and industry researchers to transform a lab at the Innovative Genomics Institute on the UC Berkeley campus into a COVID-19 diagnostic testing laboratory with the goal of increasing the testing capacity and speed in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Dr. Rino Rappuoli, 2017 Canada Gairdner International Award laureate and Chief Scientist and Head of Research & Development at GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), has committed GSK’s resource of adjuvants to help labs around the world with vaccine development. Watch a webinar of Dr. Rappuoli discussing potential COVID-19 vaccines here.

The Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization - International Vaccine Centre (VIDO-InterVac) at the University of Saskatchewan, established by, Dr. Lorne Babiuk, 2012 Canada Gairdner Wightman Award laureate, is using their decades of vaccine development experience to develop candidate vaccines and animal disease models.

Alan Bernstein, 2008 Canada Gairdner Wightman Award laureate and President and CEO of CIFAR led an international roundtable on COVID-19 that included Canadian and international leaders in AI, start-ups, experts in infectious disease, epidemiology and clinicians. You can read the report from the roundtable here.

Former Chair of the Board of Directors of the Gairdner Foundation, Dr. Lorne Tyrrell is working with teams at the Li Ka Shing Institute of Virology at the University of Alberta to develop rapid response projects to research and test treatments and potential vaccines for COVID-19.

Gairdner would also like to acknowledge the work of Dr. Frank Plummer, 2016 Canada Gairdner Wightman Award laureate, who tragically passed away earlier this year, for his leadership as Scientific Director General at the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg.  His leadership helped to guide the response to numerous outbreaks including the development of the Ebola vaccine programs in Canada, SARS treatment in 2003 and the 2009 H1N1 pandemic influenza outbreak. The National Microbiology Lab is currently playing a pivotal role in understanding and fighting the COVID-19 virus. Our thoughts are with Jo and his family.

We want our stakeholders to be well-informed and we recommend reading articles as included below that will help answer some of your questions. Details are changing rapidly so please always refer to the latest information but ensure you’re reading from trusted sources such as the World Health Organization, Public Health Canada and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.