Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19)

Initially identified as a cluster of pneumonia cases in Wuhan, China on December 31st, 2019, COVID-19 was later reported to be caused by the novel coronavirus Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). On January 30th, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a Public Health Emergency of International Concerns (PHEIC), due to the rapid spread of the virus and to enhance preparedness efforts around the world, particularly in vulnerable states with weakened health systems. COVID-19 has now spread globally, leading the WHO to declare it a pandemic on March 11th, 2020. In Canada, the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed on January 25th, 2020. Since then, the Government of Canada and provinces and territories have implemented exceptional measures, including social distancing and self-isolation, to mitigate COVID-19 transmission and reduce the pressure on the health care system.

CIHR launched a Rapid Research Response to contribute to the national and global efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Government of Canada Rapid Research Response to COVID-19

The Canadian 2019 COVID-19 Rapid Research Funding Opportunity
The Government of Canada Rapid Research Response was led by CIHR in partnership with the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), the Canada Research Coordinating Committee (CRCC) through the New Frontiers in Research Fund (NFRF), the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), Genome Canada (GC), Research Manitoba, Research Nova Scotia, and Alberta Innovates.

In total, the Government of Canada invested $54.2 million to fund COVID-19 research. Of the 227 eligible applications submitted -, a total of 99 projects led by researchers across the country were funded. This investment focused on research in two themes, medical countermeasures and social and policy countermeasures, and aligned with the research priorities set out by the World Health Organizations (WHO) 2019 Novel Coronavirus Global Research and Innovation Forum: Towards a Research roadmap [ PDF (421.64 KB) - external link ], and the WHO Research & Development blueprint on COVID-19. The funded projects focus on developing new and repurposed therapeutic targets, diagnostic improvements, solutions for better clinical management and studies on transmission dynamics for the COVID-19 outbreak, in addition to vaccine development. The investment in social sciences and public health research is supporting studies on the public health response and its impact, the social dynamics of transmission, risk communications and stigma, and studies on governance and global coordination.

Global Leadership and Alignment

CIHR’s rapid research response is aligned with, and informed by, the efforts of international partners, including the WHO and the Global Research Collaboration for Infectious Disease Preparedness (GloPID-R).

WHO-GloPID-R Global Research and Innovation Forum: Towards a Research Roadmap

The WHO Global Research and Innovation Forum was hosted in collaboration with the GloPID-R, a global consortium of research funding organizations that facilitates the international rapid research response to significant infectious disease outbreaks such as COVID-19, and was co-chaired by CIHR. It brought together over 300 scientists and national public health experts, including a number of Canadian researchers as well as representatives from CIHR,  to discuss many aspects of the COVID-19 outbreak and develop a research roadmap [ PDF (421.64 KB) - external link ] to address it. Key knowledge gaps were discussed, and target research priorities across different thematic areas were identified.

The discussions at the aforementioned meeting informed the design of the COVID-19 Rapid Research Funding Opportunity and its focus on both biomedical and social interventions, aimed at generating critical scientific evidence to inform the development of medical products and social interventions needed to combat COVID-19.

Global Research Collaboration for Infectious Disease Preparedness (GloPID-R)

GloPID-R is an international consortium, for which CIHR is a member and comprised of 28 research funding organizations from every continent around the world, that facilitates preparedness and rapid response research during significant infectious disease outbreaks. Dr. Charu Kaushic, Scientific Director of the Institute of infection and Immunity is a Co-Chair of GloPID-R. As co-host of the aforementioned Forum, GloPID-R worked closely with the WHO to identify the research priority areas and encouraged coordination among members in the identification of existing research expertise in this area and the development of rapid response funding opportunities on COVID-19. This allowed for unprecedented levels of international cooperation between funding agencies and international researchers. All funding calls from GloPID-R members are listed on the GloPID-R website and can be reviewed by researchers interested in exploring synergies and opportunities for international collaboration, which will undoubtably accelerate our global efforts to combat COVID-19.

To support a coordinated global research response, GloPID-R and the UK Collaborative on Development Research (UK CDR) have also developed a live database of funded research projects on COVID-19, which provides an overview of funded research projects mapped against the priorities identified in the WHO research roadmap [ PDF (731.62 KB) - external link ].

Please regularly consult the COVID-19 webpage on CIHR’s website for all COVID-19 information related to CIHR. It is updated regularly and includes linkage tools, possible funding opportunities and COVID-19 academic publications resulting from CIHR-funded research, among other relevant information.

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