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News Release - Manitoba

April 8, 2020

PROVINCE CREATES NEW, $5-MILLION FUND FOR RESEARCH PROJECTS RELATED TO COVID-19

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New Fund to Advance Strides Toward Vaccines and Treatments for Coronavirus: Friesen

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A new, $5-million COVID-19 research fund through Research Manitoba was announced today by Health, Seniors and Active Living Minister Cameron Friesen.

“This new fund will support a clinical trial to determine if a commonly used drug can safely be used as a treatment for COVID-19,” said Friesen.  “The fund will also provide support for local researchers to develop solutions to health-care issues in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

In February, following a recommendation from Dr. Brent Roussin, chief provincial public health officer, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, with numerous partners, launched a funding opportunity for 10 clinical research professionals to test therapies to mitigate the rapid spread of COVID-19.

“This virus is one of the most serious public health emergencies the world has faced in many years,” said Roussin.  “This fund will ensure important research can take place to help fight this virus and develop new ways to identify and treat patients, as well as develop strong partnerships to move this work forward.”

“We are proud to partner with Research Manitoba on this important work,” said Economic Development and Training Minister Ralph Eichler.  “Agile and innovative thinking is what we need in rapidly evolving times such as these, and investments into research and development will help advance our understanding and ability to treat COVID-19.”

Local clinical and scientific researchers and senior officials from the Manitoba government, Shared Health and the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority (WRHA) have identified several new research projects.  These include projects to test possible treatments in clinical trials, better understand how the disease is developing in Manitoba and better understand how the health system needs to react to different complications that are emerging around the world.

“We are pleased to refocus our research efforts on vital clinical trials and potential interventions in the fight against COVID-19,” said Tracey Maconachie, chair, Research Manitoba.  “Our world-renowned partners are conducting leading-edge research that could expedite treatments for Manitobans and all Canadians.”

More than $3.5 million will be used to support clinical and applied research including $700,000 for Manitoba’s first COVID-19 clinical trial for a drug to fight this virus, the minister said.  The study will test whether or not the drug hydroxychloroquine, used to treat rheumatology issues, can prevent people from contracting COVID-19.  The scientific trial will determine if the drug can safely be used as a treatment for COVID-19.

“We are building on the work of preliminary studies to look at how this drug could help fight the spread of COVID-19,” said Dr. Ryan Zarychanski, associate professor, department of internal medicine, Max Rady College of Medicine, University of Manitoba and department of medical oncology and hematology, CancerCare Manitoba.  “We are asking Manitobans who meet the study’s criteria to consider joining this trial to help us scientifically prove the benefits for Manitobans and people around the world.”

An additional $500,000 will be invested in partnerships with industry and philanthropic sources supporting existing trials based in Manitoba but with sites across Canada and in seven other countries around the world, Friesen said, adding $1 million will be invested in COVID-19 innovation projects including looking at the development of diagnostic tools.

The minister noted the development of the fund builds on funding for other research opportunities during the pandemic including:
•    the University of Manitoba investigating how logistical systems can adapt to a pandemic;
•    developing a cost-effective, point-of-need diagnostic test for COVID-19 at the Canadian Science Centre for Human and Animal Health; and
•    developing a COVID-19 vaccine at the University of Manitoba.

“While we have learned a great deal about this virus in just a few months, there are many more questions that need to be answered,” said Friesen.  “These investments will help contribute to the world’s understanding of the virus and make important strides toward vaccines, treatments and possible changes to our health system to better combat COVID-19.”

Manitobans who wish to participate in the clinical trial can visit www.covid-19research.ca for additional details.

For more information on COVID-19, visit www.manitoba.ca/covid19.

A comprehensive list of Manitoba government COVID-19 measures can be found at https://manitoba.ca/bg/2020/04/covid19.html

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