RI-MUHC researchers support Canada’s efforts to address the COVID-19 pandemic

RI-MUHC researchers support Canada’s

Drs. Emily McDonald and Todd Lee are part of the Canadian Network of COVID-19 Clinical Trials Networks, which recently received $6 million from CIHR to crank up research

At the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC), as elsewhere in the country and around the world, several clinical trials are underway to test existing drugs that could potentially offer significant therapeutic benefits against COVID-19. If proven effective, these drugs could be considered effective weapons against the disease.

However, important gaps in research must be addressed in the country, and research efforts must be better coordinated; that is why the Government of Canada announced on January 20 a $6 million investment in the Canadian Network of COVID-19 Clinical Trials Networks. According to the Canadian Institutes of Health Research news release, this investment will expand existing national and international clinical trial networks in order to coordinate research in the prevention, detection, management and treatment of COVID-19.

Drs. Todd Lee and Emily McDonald, both scientists in the Infectious Diseases and Immunity in Global Health Program at the Research Institute of the MUHC (RI-MUHC), will take part in the initiative by supporting outpatient clinical trials.

“This funding will allow us to improve the infrastructure to carry out COVID-19 trials in Canada,” says Dr. McDonald, who is also an assistant professor of Medicine at McGill University, and a physician in the Division of General Internal Medicine at the MUHC. “It will bring experts together to conduct trials, and could improve enrolment and access to emerging treatments for patients.”

Since the start of the pandemic, the MUHC has been doing remarkable work in leading outpatient trials in COVID-19, with Dr. Lee and Dr. McDonald playing lead roles in this effort. As of March 2020, both experts have developed innovative methods to enable "non-contact" clinical trials, which are carried out with patients who are isolating at home with COVID-19. Despite their success, coordination with other research teams and recruitment of participants has been challenging. They therefore welcome the government's investment in coordinating research across the country.

“Several successful trials are ongoing in Quebec, and we would like to upscale them to include recruitment from Ontario, British Columbia, Alberta and more,” says Dr. Lee, who is also an Associate Professor of Medicine at McGill. “With the number of COVID cases we now have in the country, we should be able to accelerate research for the benefit of all.”

“This initiative brings together a huge team of hard-working, experienced individuals with expertise in all aspects of conducting COVID-19 research trials – experts who’ve dealt with outpatients, hospitalized patients and patients requiring critical care,” adds Dr. McDonald. “We are very lucky to be part of this.”