CoVaRR-Net Researchers

Anne-Claude Gingras, Sinai Health Systems, Pillar 3 & Project Lead

Louis Flamand, Université Laval, Pillar 2 Lead
Jennifer Gommerman, University of Toronto, Pillar 1 Lead
Jason Moffat, University of Toronto, Pillar 3 Deputy
Nazeem Muhajarine, University of Saskatchewan, Pillar 6 Lead
Ioannis Ragoussis, McGill University, Pillar 4 Lead
James Rini, University of Toronto, Pillar 3 Deputy
Jesse Shapiro, McGill University, Pillar 5 Lead
Nozumu Yachie, University of British Columbia, Pillar 3 Deputy

Collaborators

Allison McGeer, Toronto Invasive Bacterial Diseases Network (TIBDN)
Samira Mubareka, Toronto Invasive Bacterial Diseases Network (TIBDN)
Heidi Wood, National Microbiology Laboratory

Lay Summary

Current COVID-19 vaccines were designed to instruct our bodies’ immune systems to recognize and prevent the coronavirus from binding to a cell’s surface and entering the cell. Depending on the part of the virus used to create these vaccines, variants may be less well recognized by a person’s immune system, may more easily spread and/or cause more severe disease.

In Canada, several variants are spreading in different regions of the country, causing Canada to become a mosaic of variants. Additionally, as the virus keeps mutating, new variants will emerge with time. One existing problem is that to be prepared for future variants, we need to be able to understand many variants simultaneously instead of only a few at a time.

Members of Pillar 3 have developed experiments to look at how well molecules from a person’s immune system can block the coronavirus proteins from binding to a cell’s surface or prevent a modified virus from entering cells. To examine how new variants might behave, we will develop new technologies that can test hundreds, and then thousands, of potential variants to anticipate those that may evade the immune system and/or infect different types of cells in the body (e.g., lungs, gut, brain and lining of blood vessels).

These studies will improve our ability to examine new variants as they emerge as potential threats to our current vaccination programs in Canada. Strategies developed from these studies could be applied to future pandemic research plans, putting Canada in a better position to respond to the next public health threat.

Budget

CoVaRR-Net: $200,000 cash contribution