Notice of upcoming COVID-19 research funding opportunity

The Canadian Pediatric COVID-19 Research Platform funding opportunity is now available on ResearchNet (Application deadline: February 15, 2022).

CIHR would like to provide information to the research community on an upcoming rapid funding opportunity that is part of the Government of Canada's continued response to address the health challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Operating Grant: Canadian Pediatric (Hospital) COVID Vaccination Platform competition will  launch the week of January 24, 2022.

We are providing preliminary information at this time to allow the research community to prepare and respond to an expedited process.

Canadian Pediatric (Hospital) COVID Vaccination Platform

The SARS-Co-V2 (COVID-19) pandemic has had dramatic effects on children and families in Canada. School closures, parental work from home measures, virtual classroom learning and the effects of COVID-19 infections in children (e.g., myocarditis, multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children [MIS-C], post-COVID condition, etc.) have all taken their toll on the health, wellness and social development of children in Canada. The development of vaccines and their widespread use in Canada has resulted in optimism that the return to normal (or near normal) life for families is within reach.

Despite this remarkable and global scientific collaboration, vaccination has not been without problems. For example, vaccine-inducted thrombocytopenia and thrombosis (VITT) associated with viral vector vaccinations emerged following real-world surveillance, and iteratively changed eligibility and guidelines. In addition, myocarditis in youth (up to 30 years of age) associated with the second dose of mRNA vaccines (in boys more than girls) has caused parental concerns, raised safety questions, and resulted in vaccine hesitancy. Finally, vaccine hesitancy is placing children at additional risk for contracting COVID infections and limiting the ability to reach the herd immunity required to relax strict public health measures, improve school attendance, and reopen the economy.

Given the evolving nature of the pandemic and the genetic mutations creating new variants of concern (VOC), there is an ongoing need for continued support of research and surveillance activities in all youth age groups. The recent start of the vaccination program for children aged 5-11, the possible future vaccination of younger children under the age of 5, and the emergence of the Omicron variant have all reminded us of the importance of focused research efforts in children and youth.

While pediatric projects have been supported by the Government of Canada, investments to support a coordinated system to monitor the health and wellness of children and youth is lacking as it relates to COVID infection and vaccination. This funding opportunity is intended to support a Canadian Pediatric (Hospital) COVID Vaccination Platform that will form the Collaboration Centre in close collaboration with the 13 Collaborating Sites in the pediatric hospitalsFootnote 1 from coast to coast in Canada. The Collaboration Centre will enable data management activities such as standardizing data collection, providing a cloud-based data management system, data analysis, and data sharing. It will also be the primary knowledge mobilization driver for the platform, in collaboration with the Collaborating Sites. These Collaborating Sites will be responsible for in-house collaboration, prospective and retrospective data collection, data cleaning, data transfer, and other related activities associated with specific platform studies. In addition, specific Collaborating Sites will assume leadership roles in areas germane to their regional programs (e.g., clinical trials, Indigenous health research, equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI), data management, etc.).

Objectives

The specific objectives of this funding opportunity are to:

  • Establish central coordination and collaboration activities with hospital-based Collaborating Sites located across Canada to increase the availability of high-quality and real-time evidence on the effectiveness and relative safety of vaccines in children and youth;
  • Generate evidence related to diverse children and youth population(s), including (but not limited to):
    • Equity considerations;
    • Health and well-being status (e.g., historically excluded or underserved populations, individuals with complex health needs and/or a disability);
    • Sex and gender; and/or,
    • Racialized or First Nations, Inuit, Métis and Urban Indigenous populations.
  • Identify populations at the highest and high risk for negative outcomes related to COVID-19 vaccination of children and youth and factors that are associated with this increased risk;
  • Harmonize data collection, open data sharing, and real-world data sharing with relevant knowledge-users to support a timely and effective COVID-19 public health response within and across all jurisdictions in Canada as it relates to children and youth;
  • Collaborate across Collaborating Sites to establish resource and data-sharing policies, increase efficiencies in research and related processes (including, but not limited to ethics review; contracts; common protocols; developing applications for trial funding; consistent and valid patient-oriented outcomes), reduce duplication, and maximize research and surveillance activities related to COVID-19 vaccination of children and youth; and
  • Provide evidence to inform clinical and health system management and public health response, and/or decision-making and planning within and across jurisdictions in Canada and internationally.

Key design components

  • Governance: A plan for enhancing coordination and communication among the Collaborating Sites to ensure that collaboration is enabled, efficiencies are gained, duplications are reduced, and research impact is maximized. The governance plan should ensure a mechanism for establishing an ongoing research priority-setting process, including to timely inform how and when the rapid response capacity will be activated to swiftly respond to emerging research priorities, while engaging key stakeholders across sectors. The governance plan should include concrete strategies to ensure the platform’s governance upholds principles of equity, diversity and inclusion. Within the governance structure, the following committees are to be established:
    1. Executive/Leadership Committee: Senior leadership committee overseeing all operations within the network.
    2. Scientific Committee: The Scientific Committee will be responsible for the scientific direction, projects (existing and new), and linkages of the network.
    3. Operating Committee: This committee will be responsible for coordinating the activities of the network.
  • Resource and Data Sharing: A plan for active collaboration and coordination across Sites and with member networks to ensure resources are in place to support the objectives of the funding. This plan should include strategies to enable and accelerate data and samples sharing, and increase efficiencies in research-related processes, including but not limited to ethics review; contracts; sharing agreements; and common protocols. This should also include a plan for applying the FAIR principles (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, Reusable) to the data management strategy. The Global Indigenous Data Alliance (GIDA) CARE principles (Collective benefit, Authority to control, Responsibility and Ethics) should be integrated into aspects pertaining to Indigenous data governance
  • International Linkages: A plan for liaison activities with like-minded international platforms/networks (e.g., Pediatrics Trails Network) focused on pediatric clinical research for COVID-19 interventions and related knowledge mobilization activities to maximize the impact and international visibility of the platform.
  • Patient and Citizen Engagement: The platform must include mechanisms for meaningful engagement of patients/parents/informal care providers in core activities and governance. For information regarding principles of engagement, including approaches to compensation of patients/citizens, please refer to the SPOR Patient Engagement Framework.
  • Capacity Building at a Pan-Canadian Level: The platform will play a facilitation and coordination role, adding a multidisciplinary, inter-professional, and cross-jurisdictional element to research training and mentorship activities in COVID-19 research.
  • Knowledge Mobilization: With the Collaborating Sites and other existing platforms/networks where appropriate, the platform will provide a plan to mobilize knowledge being generated to maximize the impacts of research.

Availability of funds

CIHR and partner(s) financial contributions for this initiative are subject to availability of funds. Should CIHR or partner(s) funding levels not be available or are decreased due to unforeseen circumstances, CIHR and partner(s) reserve the right to reduce, defer or suspend financial contributions to grants received as a result of this funding opportunity.

The total amount available for this funding opportunity is up to $6,700,000, enough to fund one (1) Canadian Pediatric (Hospital) COVID Vaccination Platform for a term of two (2) years with the possibility for renewal based on the evolution of the pandemic.

Of this amount:

  • A maximum of $1,675,000 can be allocated for establishing the Collaborating Centre (CC); and,
  • The remaining total is designed to support the 13 Collaborating Site leads, guided by a fair and transparent volume- and/or activity-based formula.

Preliminary application details

  • Application requirements for the application process will be outlined in the Funding Opportunity details to come.

Expected key dates

  • Launch of funding opportunity: Week of January 24, 2022
  • Application deadline: Week of February 14, 2022
  • Anticipated notice of decision: Week of March 7, 2022
  • Funding start date: March 1, 2022
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