Organizations:
Alberta Innovates, Alphabet, an Industry Strategy Council, BC Oil and Gas Methane Emissions Research Collaborative, BlackBerry Limited, British Columbia Academic Health Science Network, Canada's Ocean Supercluster, Canadian Auto Workers, Canadian Center for Vaccinology, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Canadian Chamber of Commerce, Canadian Immunization Research Network, Canopy Growth, CanSino Biologics Inc., Carbon Management Canada Inc, CargoM, Centre for Future Work, COVID-19 Evidence Network to support Decision-making, COVID-19 Research Inventory, COVID-19 Supply Council, Desjardin Group, Digital Technology Supercluster., Ebbu, Genome Alberta, Genome Canada, Google, Health Canada, Hero Ventures, Investissement Quebec, IQBit, Ivado Labs, Lawson Health Research Institute, London Health Sciences Centre, Maastricht, McMaster Health Forum, McMaster University, Mind Medicine Inc., Montreal Port Authority, Mydecine Group, National Research Council of Canada, NewLeaf Brands Inc., Nova Scotia COVID-19 Health Research Coalition, Olds College, OMERS Ventures, OneEleven, Ontario Centres of Excellence and Ryerson University, Ottawa Hospital Research Institute, Pathway RX Inc., Proof Strategies, Research in Motion, RiSC Capital, Round 13 Capital, SCALE AI, Shopfiy, Sidewalk Labs, Space Engine Systems, Structural Genomics Consortium, Swysch Inc., Toronto Open Access COVID-19 Protein Manufacturing Centre, Unifor, University of Calgary, University of Lethbridge, University of Saskatchewan, University of Toronto, University of Windsor, UQAM, Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization – International Vaccine Centre, Waterfront Toronto, Western Economic Diversification Canada, and ZYUS Life Sciences Inc.

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The Short Report, May 13, 2020: Public trust in science rising; new COVID-19 advisory councils created; OneEleven ceases operations; and more

Debbie Lawes
May 13, 2020

COVID-19 NEWS

Canadians’ trust in doctors, scientists and the government has increased since the cornovirus pandemic began, finds public opinion polls from January and repeated on May 1 and May 2. Conducted by Proof Strategies CanTrust Index of Ottawa, the survey found that 76% of Canadians trusted doctors and 70% trusted scientists. The follow up online survey of 1,000 people saw trust in doctors jump to 87%, compared to 82% for scientists. Trust in government also increased from 33% in January to 40% in May, while trust in the media plummeted to 33% in May compared to 44% in January. – RCInet and Proof Strategies

New federal advisory councils created

Innovation, Science and Industry Minister Navdeep Bains announced the creation of an Industry Strategy Council May 8 to assess the scope and depth of COVID-19's impact across various sectors and to provide economic policy advice to relevant federal ministers. The council will be chaired by Monique Leroux, a veteran of Canadian finance whose recent experience includes president/CEO of Desjardin Group and chair of Investissement Québec. Members of the Council will be announced in the near future and will complement the structure and focus of the Economic Strategy Tables. – GoC

Another advisory group – the COVID-19 Supply Council – was announced May 3 by Public Services and Procurement minister Anita Anand. The group advise on the procurement of critical goods and services, and on building agile supply chains for critical medical supplies. Anand will chair the new council, which will be made up of 17 public and private sector members, including Digital Technology Supercluster CEO Sue Paish and Canadian Chamber of Commerce president/CEO Perrin Beatty. A full list of members can be found here. – GoC

Superclusters respond to crisis

Health Canada has approved the first artificial intelligence tool for radiology in the fight against COVID-19. The XrAI  (pronounced "X-ray") machine learning tool, developed by Vancouver-based IQBit and its partners, acts as a “co-pilot” for clinicians to increase accuracy in identifying lung abnormalities associated with diseases such as COVID-19 infection, pneumonia, tuberculosis, and lung cancer. IQBit received funding from the Digital Technology Supercluster to accelerate the clinical deployment of XrAI. – IQBit

Montreal-based CargoM and the Montreal Port Authority have received $500,000 from the Scale AI supercluster to develop a tool for rapid distribution of essential cargo such as medical equipment and food supplies. Developed in collaboration with Montreal startup Ivado Labs, the tool optimizes the identification and prioritization of critical cargo arriving by container. The project is among the more than 120 projects that applied to Scale AI in just three weeks. – CargoM

Canada’s Ocean Supercluster (OSC) has issued a call for proposals for its new Accelerated Ocean Solutions Program. The program will invest up to $35 million in short-term, small-scale projects that will help stimulate the economy during the current economic crisis brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Project themes include: remote operations; digital/automated technologies; and environmental technologies. – OSC

The latest in Canadian COVID-19 research

The National Research Council of Canada (NRC) has teamed with CanSino Biologics Inc. (CanSinoBIO) to advance bioprocessing and clinical development in Canada of a potential vaccine against COVID-19. CanSinoBIO has applied to Health Canada for permission to conduct a clinical trial of Ad5-nCoV, a vaccine candidate developed using proprietary HEK293 cell lines from the NRC. The NRC recently received federal funding to expand the capacity of its Human Health Therapeutics lab in Montreal to accelerate clinical trials and the eventual production of a vaccine and treatments. The trials would be conducted in collaboration with the Canadian Immunization Research Network at the Canadian Center for Vaccinology. – GoC

The NRC’s HEK293 cell lines are also being used in collaboration with the University of Saskatchewan’s (USask) Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization-International Vaccine Centre (VIDO-InterVac) to accelerate the development and production of a candidate COVID-19 antigen. Animal studies at VIDO-InterVac will help to determine the antigen’s effectiveness. The NRC will also explore the use of its HEK293 cells to develop a process to scale up production of the vaccine antigen for future pre-clinical and clinical studies. – GoC

VIDO-InterVac is also working with a Saskatoon medical cannabis firm to develop a plant-based vaccine for the coronavirus. A potential antigen for a COVID-19 vaccine identified by VIDO-InterVac will be isolated by ZYUS Life Sciences Inc. in its plant expression system. By mid-summer, ZYUS plans to have extracted enough specific protein for VIDO-InterVac to determine its effectiveness in animal models. – VIDO-InterVac

Two Lethbridge, AB companies, Pathway RX Inc. and Swysch Inc., and scientists at the University of Lethbridge have found that certain medical cannabis extracts show promise as an additional treatment for COVID-19. The study’s data suggests that some sativa cultivars can help reduce the severity and complications of COVID-19. A scientific paper on the findings is awaiting peer review and the team is planning further research as well as clinical trials. University of Lethbridge and Newswire

Researchers at Lawson Health Research Institute have become the first in the world to treat a patient with COVID-19 using a modified dialysis device. In a clinical trial of up to 40 critically ill patients at London Health Sciences Centre, a modified version of a standard dialyzer will gently remove a patient’s blood, then modify white blood cells before returning them to the body to fight hyperinflammation caused by Covid-19. “The ultimate goal is to improve patient survival and lessen their dependency on oxygen and ventilation,” said lead researcher Dr. Chris McIntyre. – LHRI

An engineering team at the University of Toronto is manufacturing coronavirus proteins in hopes of accelerating COVID-19 research around the world. The 25 viral SARS-Cov-2 proteins are being made at the newly launched Toronto Open Access COVID-19 Protein Manufacturing Centre, which received support from the Toronto COVID-19 Action Fund. Led Dr. Aled Edwards, director of the Structural Genomics Consortium, the centre will rapidly produce and distribute large quantities of the proteins at no cost. Milligram batches of viral proteins currently on the market for research sell for up to $10,000. “If you’re an academic researcher, or a small company in Canada or anywhere in the world, this is cost-prohibitive,” said lead researcher Dr. Peter Stogios. – U of T

The Nova Scotia COVID-19 Health Research Coalition is investing $1.5 million in 40 projects that will inform health system decisions, facilitate vaccine development, identify novel treatments, develop devices and influence social response to the pandemic. – Dalhousie University

An Edmonton-based aerospace company has pivoted quickly to develop a COVID-19 ventilator from non-medical parts. Space Engine Systems is using parts from the space, aerospace, oil, gas and automotive sectors to manufacture the ventilator. Potential partners in the US and UK are seeking medical approval for the devices and talks with regulatory authorities in Canada are proceeding. – SpaceQ

COVID-19 Research Resources

To ensure better coordination and to avoid unnecessarily duplication of research, the British Columbia Academic Health Science Network and its three operational units (BC SUPPORT Unit, Clinical Trials BC and Research Ethics BC) have created the COVID-19 Research Inventory of current COVID-19-related research projects underway in the province, including clinical trials. – BC AHSN

McMaster Health Forum and the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute have launched the COVID-19 Evidence Network to support Decision-making (COVID-END) portal to help decision-makers and researchers find evidence related to COVID-19. The network’s activities span the full range of COVID-19 issues, from infection prevention and control, to mental health and family violence, education, employment, financial protection, food safety and security, government services, housing, public safety and justice, recreation and transportation. – The Ottawa Hospital

IN OTHER NEWS

Google-backed Sidewalk Labs has abandoned its ambitious plans to turn Toronto’s industrial waterfront into a sensor-laden smart city. Led by Google subsidiary Alphabet and Waterfront Toronto, the $1.3-billion Quayside project had come under fierce criticism from privacy advocates. In a Globe and Mail op-ed published two years ago, Jim Balsillie, co-founder of Blackberry maker Research in Motion, called the project a “colonizing experiment in surveillance capitalism attempting to bulldoze important urban, civic and political issues”. Sidewalk Labs CEO Dan Doctoroff blamed the abrupt decision on the COVID-19 pandemic, saying in a May 7 statement that: “As unprecedented economic uncertainty has set in around the world and in the Toronto real estate market, it has become too difficult to make the 12-acre project financially viable without sacrificing core parts of the plan we had developed.” – Medium

The financial crisis stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic has claimed another victim – OneEleven. The Toronto-based business incubator, which is backed by OMERS Ventures, the Ontario Centres of Excellence and Ryerson University, said it is permanently ceasing operations. In a statement, OneEleven said: “As the particulars of a post-COVID world remain uncertain to all of us, there is also no doubt that a safe return to office environments will require changes to the way we work, and in particular the required de-densification of physical space will fundamentally threaten our business model.” – OneEleven and OCE

Two veteran investors have raised $7 million for a new venture firm, RiSC Capital. Scott Pelton, former general partner of Round 13 Capital, and Colin Webster, formerly of Hero Ventures, are aiming to raise $20 million for the fund, which is investing in early-stage Canadian tech companies. RiSC Capital’s first closure was led by Scott Lake, co-founder and former CEO of Shopfiy. – BetaKit

Genome Alberta is awarding $1.1 million to five projects under its Enabling Bioinformatics Solutions funding competition. Applicants were asked to submit proposals that would support the development of bioinformatic and computational approaches to help end users in the agriculture and human health sectors overcome limitations in understanding, analyzing, and drawing conclusions from genomic data being collected. Other funders in the competition include Genome Canada, the Government of Alberta and Alberta Innovates. – Genome Alberta

The BC Oil and Gas Methane Emissions Research Collaborative (MERC) has established a two-year plan to advance research on methane emissions from oil and gas activity. The research plan, a joint initiative of industry, government, the regulator and non-profits, will lead to recommendations on the design and implementation of key research deliverables necessary to meet methane reduction goals and to monitor the efficiency and effectiveness of B.C.’s methane regulations. – Pembina Institute

Olds College has become the only post-secondary institution in the world to deploy the fully autonomous DOT Power Platform as a teaching and research tool on the college’s Smart Farm in Olds, AB. The equipment is part of a three-year Smart Farm research project to understand the benefits and challenges of autonomous agricultural equipment. The project will also measure the economic and environmental footprint of autonomous agricultural equipment. The college received of $1.9 million for the project from Western Economic Diversification Canada and private partners. – Olds College

Mind Medicine Inc. (MindMed), Toronto, has entered into a clinical trial agreement with Maastricht University in the Netherlands to undertake a Phase 2a clinical trial for lysergic acid diethylamide ("LSD") in adult patients with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. MindMed previously established a microdosing division to develop a portfolio of clinical trials studying the use of sub-perceptual amounts of psychedelic substances for medical purposes. Clinical trials are scheduled to take place in the Netherlands by the end of the year. – Newswire

The University of Windsor and BlackBerry Limited, Waterloo, ON, have partnered to develop and deliver a cybersecurity curriculum for the university's Graduate Master's Program in Applied Computing. The curriculum, called BlackBerry Bootcamp, will be taught as part of a required Network Security course, and will cover a range of cybersecurity topics, including digital identity protection and privacy, software engineering, the latest techniques of cybercriminals, and advanced threat detection technologies. It will be delivered over 10 weeks as a remote earning program starting on May 18. – Newswire

THE GRAPEVINE

Dr. Jim Stanford is establishing a new office of the Centre for Future Work: a think tank to study how work is changing in the modern economy. The Canadian office, located in Vancouver, expands his work in Australia, where he founded the Centre for Future Work in 2016. Until 2016, Stanford was economist and policy director for Unifor (and formerly for the Canadian Auto Workers). He is also the Harold Innis Industry Professor of Economics at McMaster University. The centre's Canadian office is being established in collaboration with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. – Newswire

Robert Roscow will become chief science officer at NewLeaf Brands Inc., a cannabidiol (CBD) lifestyle firm based in Vancouver. Roscow previously served as director of research at Ebbu, a multi-platform cannabinoid research and technology firm based in Colorado. Prior to Ebbu's $429-million acquisition by Canopy Growth, Smiths Falls, ON, his day-to-day operations included running the world's first cannabis genomics editing lab and improving cannabinoid yields. Following Canopy's acquisition of Ebbu, Roscow has focused on the medical mushroom space, co-founding Mydecine Group, which is in the process of being sold to NewLeaf. – Newswire

UQAM has appointed Christian Edem Kokou Agbobli as vice-rector for Research, Creation and Dissemination, effective July 13. Agbobli has been a professor in the Department of Social and Public Communication since 2006. From 2013 to 2014, he served as vice-dean for research and creation at the Faculty of Communication. He has also held the UNESCO Chair in communication and technologies for development since 2018. He succeeds Catherine Mounier who will continue her activities as a professor and researcher in the Department of Biological Sciences. – Uqam

Dr. Bernhard Mayer, head of the University of Calgary’s Department of Geoscience, has been appointed interim dean, Faculty of Science, effective June 1, 2020, a position he will hold until June 30, 2021. An internationally known isotope geochemist, Mayer was named department head of geoscience in 2016. He previously served as assistant scientific director of Carbon Management Canada Inc. (2009-2013). – University of Calgary


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