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Centre de recherche
Thursday, June 25 2020

CHU Sainte-Justine mobilizes for the fight against COVID-19

Five projects funded through the CIHR’s COVID-19 rapid research funding program

MONTRÉAL, June 25, 2020 – Working at the forefront of research to combat COVID-19, CHU Sainte-Justine is pleased to announce that several major projects led by its scientists, alone or in collaboration with other centres, have been granted large awards by the Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR).

In April, as part of the Canadian government’s ongoing efforts to quickly address the health problems caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, a new funding opportunity for rapid research into COVID-19 was launched.

Our unparalleled research teams got to work to propose research projects concerning the current state of the pandemic in Canada and globally, to slow down and eradicate the propagation of COVID-19.

Projects directed at CHU Sainte-Justine

  • Lead researcher: Dr. Francine M. Ducharme 
    Project: PRevention of COVID-19 with high dose Oral Vitamin D supplemental Therapy in Essential HealthCare Teams (PROTECT)
    Amount of funding: $4.2 million

    This project will assess whether healthcare workers who receive high doses of Vitamin D have a lower risk of infection with COVID-19. Studies have shown that vitamin D supplementation may reduce the risk of common respiratory diseases, especially for people with lower intake of Vitamin D. If high doses of Vitamin D prove to be effective for reducing COVID-19 infections or their severity and duration, this may be the least costly and most easily applicable approach for preventing infection in at-risk healthcare workers. If the benefit also leads to fewer and shorter worker absences, it could considerably reduce the absenteeism in the healthcare system and guarantee enough healthcare staff to battle the current pandemic.
  • Lead researcher: Dr. Caroline Quach-Thanh
    Project: REinfection in COVid-19 Estimation of Risk (RECOVER)
    Amount of funding: $2.1 million

    This project will assess the risk of reinfection with SARS-CoV-2 for healthcare workers who have already been infected by COVID-19 and will study natural immune response and the risk of symptomatic and asymptomatic reinfection with COVID-19 over a one-year period. The results of this study will allow public health decision-makers to agree on future deconfinement and pandemic management strategies. Showing that being infected with COVID-19 does not protect people from reinfection would completely change the paradigm, we are currently operating under.

Collaboration projects

  • CHU Sainte-Justine researcher: Dr. Philippe Bégin
    Lead researcher: Dr. Donald M. Arnold, McMaster University
    Project: A Randomized Open-Label Trial of Convalescent Plasma for Hospitalized Adults With Acute COVID-19 Respiratory Illness (CONCOR-1)
    Amount of funding: $2.9 million

    Passive immunization may be an effective treatment method to combat COVID-19. This approach involves transfusing plasma from patients who have recovered from COVID-19 – so-called convalescent plasma – to patients at the onset of illness in order to transfer protective antibodies. Transfusing convalescent plasma to an infected person who requires hospital care could remove the need to use an artificial respirator or other measures to prevent death. It is therefore important to sufficiently study convalescent plasma in order to inform blood banks and suppliers that it could be used for other patients with COVID-19.
  • CHU Sainte-Justine researcher: Dr. Isabelle Boucoiran
    Lead researcher: Dr. Deborah M. Money, University of British Columbia  
    Project: Canadian Surveillance of COVID-19 in Pregnancy: Epidemiology, Maternal and Infant Outcomes  
    Amount of funding:
    $0.8 million

    The effects of COVID-19 during pregnancy for the mother and the fetus are largely unknown. Our pan-Canadian team launched a forward-looking national monitoring project to monitor results associated with COVID-19 during pregnancy. This project will determine the virus burden in pregnant women in Canada, as well as the maternal and infant outcomes associated with the infection, including the possibility of transmission from the mother to the fetus during pregnancy or after birth. This study will allow Canada to develop appropriate recommendations, based on evidence-based data that are urgently needed by care staff, pregnant women and their families. The aggregation of data with international partners will complement other global efforts.
  • CHU Sainte-Justine researcher: Dr. Philippe Broët
    Lead researcher: Prof. Philippe Awadala, Ontario Institute for Cancer Research
    Project: Surveilling Prospective Population Cohorts for COVID-19 Prevalence and Outcomes in Canada (SUPPORT-Canada)
    Amount of funding: $2.1 million

    This initiative will collect data and biological products to facilitate population-wide monitoring and support the research community in order to determine the factors that contribute to sensitivity to COVID-19 and severity of infection, in order to identify high-risk individuals or communities across Canada and contribute to prevention.

This funding opportunity is a partnership between the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research, Alberta Innovates, the Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation, Research Manitoba, the New Brunswick Health Research Foundation, Research Nova Scotia and other partners.


The CHU Sainte-Justine Research Centre is a leading mother-child research institution affiliated with Université de Montréal. It brings together more than 210 research investigators, including over 110 clinician-scientists, as well as 450 graduate and postgraduate students focused on finding innovative prevention means, faster and less invasive treatments, as well as personalized approaches to medicine. The Centre is part of CHU Sainte-Justine, which is the largest mother-child center in Canada. For more information, go to research.chusj.org

CHU Sainte-Justine

Maude Hoffmann
Communications, CHU Sainte-Justine Research Centre

Media contact:

Florence Meney
Senior Advisor – Media Relations
CHU Sainte-Justine
Tel.: 514-755-2516

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Updated on 6/23/2020
Created on 6/23/2020
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