The Short Report - Oct. 14, 2020: CIHR signs MOU to support Inuit-led health research, Health Canada accepts rolling submission for a COVID-19 vaccine candidate, and more

Cindy Graham
October 14, 2020


Minister of Health Patty Hajdu announced more than $10.2 million in COVID-19 mental health and substance use research through the COVID-19 and Mental Health (CMH) Research Initiative, a collaboration between the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), Health Canada, the Public Health Agency of Canada, the Mental Health Commission of Canada, and the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction. Findings will be used to inform policy and practice to respond to the pandemic as it evolves. Funding is provided by CIHR, the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research, the New Brunswick Health Research Foundation, the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, and the Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation. – GoC

The American biotechnology company Moderna announced the start of its rolling submission to Health Canada for its vaccine candidate against COVID-19. Under a rolling review process, a company can submit portions of its regulatory application as the information becomes available to accelerate the approval process. Health Canada is also reviewing applications for COVID-19 vaccine candidates from BioNTech SE and Pfizer, as well as AstraZeneca. – Moderna

Air Canada’s announcement that it will pilot test a new homegrown contact tracing technology has spurred interest from over 300 companies globally, from diverse sectors such as manufacturing, sports entertainment, education, travel and tourism. Scarborough ON-based Facedrive’s TraceSCAN technology was developed by a team of professors and students at the University of Waterloo’s School of Engineering. TraceSCAN is customizable for a range of uses including check-in/check-out fobs for hotels, time and payroll tracking, security applications, attendance monitoring in schools and retail payment devices.  – Facedrive


FedDev Ontario is investing $13.4 million in four Toronto-based businesses and organizations to support innovation in health technology solutions in Southern Ontario. Toronto Innovation Acceleration Partners (TIAP), formerly MaRS Innovation, is receiving $6.5 million through the Regional Innovation Ecosystem stream to support the expansion of life sciences companies in Kingston and Hamilton, mainly through partnerships with Queen’s University and McMaster University. The investment is expected to create 405 jobs, scale up 32 life sciences companies, and support at least six companies to become anchor firms. Three other companies expect to create 84 jobs in the Toronto area with funding from the Business ScaleUp and Productivity stream: $4 million for MindBeacon to support digital and virtual mental therapy platforms and expand into global markets; $2 million for Cyclica to commercialize a drug design tool that reduces the time and cost of drug discovery, and $900,000 for InputHealth to commercialize and accelerate its Collaborative Health Record (CHR) platform and support expansion into the Ontario and U.S. health tech markets. – GoC


The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) has signed an MOU with Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK), Canada’s national Inuit organization, to further implement the National Inuit Strategy on Research. The NISR aims to build capacity for Inuit-led health research in five priority areas: advancing Inuit governance in research, enhancing ethical conduct of research, aligning funding with Inuit research priorities, ensuring Inuit access, ownership and control over data and information, building capacity in Inuit Nunangat research areas and improving the health and well-being of Inuit. – CIHR

A group of 24 software and hardware companies has launched Quantum Industry Canada (QIC) a consortium that is working to accelerate the commercialization of quantum computing research both within Canada and globally. QIC will support Canadian quantum startups and mature players through access to expertise in intellectual property and go-to market strategies, and will work with the provincial and federal governments to support the industry. – QIC

The Ontario government is matching a $295-million investment with the federal government to retool Ford Canada’s Oakville Assembly Complex into a hub for battery electric vehicle production. This $1.8-billion total investment represents one of the most significant investments in the province’s auto sector in a generation. Ford’s Oakville plant directly employs over 3,000 people and will be modernized with a flexible manufacturing system able to accommodate multiple battery electric vehicle (BEV) models. It will also include the installation of a battery-pack assembly line. The Oakville Assembly Complex will become one of Ford’s highest-volume BEV plants in North America, with the first electric vehicles expected to roll off the production line in 2025. – Government of Ontario

University of British Columbia Okanagan (UBCO) received $1 million from the Stober Family Foundation, an amount that will be nearly doubled through fundraising, to support needs-based and merit-based scholarships and a new Stober Fellows Program. The funding will support student programs such as those run by the UBCO Social Work Mental Health Clinic and the clinical psychology training program in the Okanagan. A $500,000 program will be formed within the School of Health and Exercise Sciences to help recruit the next generation of health scientists. – UBCO 


Canada ranks among the top five of desirable research partners for the EU’s next research program, Horizon Europe, a €100 billion research and innovation program to succeed Horizon 2020. The program launches in 2021 and has five mission areas: adaptation to climate change; cancer; climate-neutral and smart cities; healthy oceans, seas, coastal and inland waters; and soil health and food. – Science Business

MacLean’s magazine has named the University of Toronto the top university in Canada for spurring innovation. The ranking is based on a survey of university faculty, senior administrators and business people across Canada. Overall, U of T held onto first place in the Maclean’s reputational rankings for the sixth year running. In addition to innovation, it received top marks in categories related to quality and producing “leaders of tomorrow.” Other Canadian universities ranked in the top five by reputation were the University of British Columbia, the University of Waterloo, McGill University and McMaster University, respectively. – U of T


Dr. Ann Marie Vaughan, president and CEO of Loyalist College, and Dr. Charmaine Dean, VP, research and international at the University of Waterloo, have been appointed to the board of directors of Ontario Genomics. Jehoshua Sharma, a PhD student at the University of Guelph and co-founder of cGEM, has also been appointed to the board as an observer and student representative. Vaughan and Dean replace Dr. John Kelly, who has been appointed deputy minister at the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs and Dr. Jack Gauldie, who is retiring. – Ontario Genomics

The New Digital Research Infrastructure Organization (NDRIO) has named 22 multidisciplinary researchers to its first Researcher Council. The council will work on researcher needs assessment, NDRIO’s first strategic plan and the growth of NDRIO as it delivers on a commitment to involve the research community in the design and delivery of a model to support Canada’s national Digital Research Infrastructure Strategy. – NDRIO

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