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Government of Canada invests $10 million in research on oral medications for SARS‑CoV‑2

Posted by Kate Rogers with files from CIHR on July 7, 2022 in News
Dr. Emily Marshall is part of a research team receiving $10 million in funding to evaluate the effectiveness of emerging COVID-19 therapeutics.
Dr. Emily Marshall is part of a research team receiving $10 million in funding to evaluate the effectiveness of emerging COVID-19 therapeutics.

When COVID-19 first emerged, the Government of Canada and the research community quickly stepped up to develop screening approaches, public health measures, and new vaccines to protect Canadians from the health challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Government of Canada is also investing in effective and affordable COVID-19 therapeutics, including emerging antiviral medications.

Dr. Emily Gard Marshall, associate professor in the Departments of Family Medicine and Psychiatry at Dalhousie University, and her colleagues are part of the Toronto-led study looking at the effectiveness of these new COVID-19 treatments for non-hospitalized patients, with the aim to provide timely evidence that will support decision making for health system managers and public health officials in Canada and abroad. In a response to the need for this research, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) joined forces with Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada to fund the project.

On July 7, the Honourable Jean-Yves Duclos, Minister of Health, announced that this $10M partnership will fund the COVID-19 Outpatient Therapeutic Study to advance research into the effectiveness and challenges of new COVID-19 treatments for non-hospitalized patients. The research team, including Dr. Marshall, and led by Dr. Andrew Pinto, director of the Upstream Lab at St. Michael’s Hospital, a site of Unity Health Toronto, and the University of Toronto has been awarded this funding to establish the Canadian ADAptive Platform Trial of COVID-19 Therapeutics in Community Settings (Can-ADAPT COVID), working with colleagues from across Canada.

"It's exciting to be a part of this national research, working together to answer critical questions for how we can best use emerging therapeutics to lessen the burden of COVID-19 for people and the health care system,” says Dr. Marshall. “Getting the right treatments, to the right people, at the right time is a challenge.”

Key insights into preventing long COVID

In collaboration with patients, community partners, and research networks across Canada, the United Kingdom and the European Union, Dr. Pinto and team will compare oral medications for SARS-CoV-2 such as nirmatrelvir/ritonavir (Paxlovid™) in non-hospitalized patients and provide key insights into whether treatments prevent “long COVID.”

“Canada is making progress on evaluating emerging COVID-19 therapies and making them publicly available to lessen the health impacts of COVID-19 and “long COVID” symptoms in patients,” says The Honourable Jean-Yves Duclos. “Dr. Pinto’s platform will allow the research team to test new treatments as they emerge and to quickly respond to the dynamic nature of global pandemics and other health emergencies.”

This study will also offer timely evidence to clinical researchers, health system managers, and public health officials in Canada and abroad. CIHR and Health Canada will each contribute up to $5 million, and the Public Health Agency of Canada will provide the research team with relevant therapeutics, including Paxlovid™.

CIHR says this research will provide new insights and timely evidence in support of public health and clinical decision making for the effective roll out of new antiviral medications developed to treat non-hospitalized COVID-19 patients.

Research from Nova Scotia

Dr. Marshall, who is the director of Building Research for Integrated Primary Healthcare (BRIC), a Nova Scotia-based research network that aims to improve health and quality of life for people with–or at risk of developing–complex healthcare needs, is eager for the Nova Scotia team to get involved.

“We have a strong team of well-respected Nova Scotia research leaders, connected to key stakeholders, including Drs. Melissa Andrew, Lisa Barrett, Jenn Isenor, Matt Grandy and me,” she says. “I am particularly happy to support this work as it engages primary health care, where most Canadians get first access to medical care and health information.”