CFI awards $28 million for COVID-19 research infrastructure

More than 50 academic institutions will receive nearly $28 million to purchase equipment urgently needed to conduct research related to COVID-19 as part of the federal government’s pandemic response.

The Canada Foundation for Innovation’s (CFI) Exceptional Opportunities Fund (EOF) – COVID-19 is supporting 79 infrastructure projects at 52 universities and research hospitalscolleges, polytechnics and Cégeps across Canada. The EOF was created to support timely research projects that cannot be delayed for the normal course of a national competition and, unlike typical CFI competitions, will cover up to 100% of the costs for proposals requesting between $200,000 and $1.5 million. Matching funds are encouraged but not required.

The University of British Columbia receives the largest amount of total funding for five projects that include: expanding therapeutic developments for COVID-19 through enhanced CryoEM and CryoET Data Acquisition; investigating how COVID-19 damages human lung and heart tissue, and examining how the virus’ genetic code will affect the severity of the disease.

Funding will also enable a University of Calgary team to acquire a new, state-of-the-art microscope — the only one in Canada that can look into lung blood vessels at a cellular level — to investigate the effects of COVID-19 on blood vessels. Meanwhile, researchers at Dalhousie University will be able to create models of the virus to test vaccine efficacy as a result of upgrades to the Canadian Centre for Vaccinology’s level 3 containment facility at IWK Health Centre.

The largest individual project will be the creation of a biobank hosted by the University of Toronto to house over 500,000 biological samples for processing and storage to support 72 ongoing COVID-19 research studies. The city-wide Biobank will provide secure storage for all pre-clinical and clinical virus samples, which will be shared with other research institutions across Canada.

Award Highlights

Top 5 Institutions for Total Awards:

The University of British Columbia: $2,985,338
University of Alberta: $2,800,000
McGill University: $2,537,957
University of Toronto: $2,450,000
Université de Montréal: $1,585,289

10 Largest Individual Awards

University of Toronto: University of Toronto COVID-19 Biobank – $1,500,000

McMaster University: Detecting and Managing SARS-CoV-2 – $1,475,000

University of British Columbia: Expanding COVID19 Structure-based Therapeutic Development at UBC Through Enhanced CryoEM and CryoET Data Acquisition – $1,225,000

Dalhousie University: Development of Preclinical and Clinical Models of COVID-19 Disease for Vaccine, Antiviral and Immunotherapeutic Testing – $1,200,000

McGill University: Containment Level 3 Lab Capacity to Support Research on Preventives and Therapeutics for COVID-19 – $1,060,682

University of Ottawa: Increasing Manufacturing Capacity for Novel SARS-CoV2 Therapies and Vaccines – $1,050,000

University of Calgary: Imaging Animal Lungs and Human Lung Organoids in Level 3 Facility – $1,007,277

University of Toronto: Characterizing the Inflammatory and Cardiac Effects of COVID-19 – $950,000

University of Manitoba: Acquisition of a Direct Electron Detector to Enhance the New TALOS F200C Cryo-EM – $950,000

Université Laval: Seeking for Innovative Approaches in Prevention and Cure to COVID-19 Disease – $905,498