Two senior researchers of McMaster University’s Faculty of Health Sciences have received a combined $1.8 million in funding to support new research projects to help combat COVID-19.

Gerry Wright and Karen Mossman have two of 49 projects across Canada that have been allocated a total of $25 million in funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).

Wright is a professor of biochemistry and biomedical sciences. He’s also the director of the Michael G. DeGroote Institute for Infectious Disease Research (IIDR). He received $983,000 for a therapeutics project focused on targeting genetic and chemical vulnerabilities of novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2.

"Our project will identify new therapeutic strategies that may help to treat COVID-19 patients," reads the project description. "These strategies will also help mitigate newly emergent coronavirus-associated diseases that will undoubtedly continue to cause outbreaks in the future."

Mossman is a professor of pathology and molecular medicine, and a member of the McMaster Immunology Research Centre. She’s also the acting vice-president, research for the university. She received $788,000 for a transmission dynamics and animal host project that focuses on SARS-CoV-2 pathogenesis in human and bat cells, and development of in vitro and in vivo infection models

"Bats have been shown to carry a diversity of viruses including coronaviruses globally, without showing signs of disease,” according to the description of her research. “Also, major circulating and endemic coronaviruses that are causing disease in humans are speculated to have evolved in bats."

Earlier this month, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a $275 million investment in Canadian research and development, as part of the country’s COVID-19 response. This includes research on medical countermeasures, including antivirals, vaccine development and support for clinical trials. To date, the federal government has distributed $51.8M to 96 research teams from across Canada.

Patty Hajdu, federal minister of health, said: “The outbreak of COVID-19 evolves quickly, and protecting the health of Canadians is our priority.

“The additional teams of researchers receiving funding today will help Canada quickly generate the evidence we need to contribute to the global understanding of the COVID-19 illness. Their essential work will contribute to the development of effective vaccines, diagnostics, treatments, and public health responses.”