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Confronting COVID-19

2021: The Year in Research

A review of the major initiatives, the funding and awards garnered, and the research that made headlines over the last twelve months.

Each year, we take a moment in December to reflect on the accomplishments of our community in advancing research that helps us tackle some of the world’s most pressing questions and societal challenges.

[Photo of three researchers working in a lab]

While 2021 offered glimmers of hope in moving beyond the COVID-19 pandemic, it also tested and challenged our research community in myriad other ways. In balance, this year also saw Queen’s rank 1st in Canada and 5th in the world in the Times Higher Education Impact Rankings, which provided a testament to the impact of the university’s research and scholarship in advancing social impact and sustainability within and beyond our local community.

Through all of this, research prominence remained a key driver for Queen’s and our researchers continued to make national and international headlines for their discoveries and award-winning scholarship.

Join us as we review some of the highlights of 2021.

Recognizing research leadership

In 2021, Queen’s welcomed Nancy Ross as the new Vice-Principal (Research). Dr. Ross, an accomplished research administrator and renowned expert in population health, joined the university in August and succeeded Vice-Principal (Research) Kimberly Woodhouse, who had been interim in the role since 2018.

[Photo of Dr. Nancy Ross]
Dr. Nancy Ross began her five-year term as Vice-Principal (Research) on August 1, 2021.

This year saw Queen’s researchers win some of Canada’s top awards and honours for research excellence and the university ranked third in Canada for awards per faculty member (2022 Maclean’s University Rankings).

Our international expertise in cancer research and cancer clinical trials was cemented with Elizabeth Eisenhauer’s receipt of the Canada Gairdner Wightman Award for outstanding leadership in medicine and medical science, and Joe Pater receiving the inaugural Canadian Cancer Society Lifetime Contribution Prize.

Praveen Jain was honoured with the prestigious IEEE Medal in Power Engineering, the highest international award in the field of electrical power, and world-renowned philosopher Will Kymlicka’s contributions to the humanities were recognized with the RSC Pierre Chauveau medal.

Queen’s also had a successful year earning fellowships within Canada’s national academies. Sari van Anders, Heather Castleden, and Karen Lawford were named members of the Royal Society of Canada’s College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists  and professor emeritus John Berry was named a Fellow. Health administrators and research leaders Jane Philpott, Kieran Moore, Doug Munoz, and John Muscedere were inducted into the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences, and Kim McAuley, Mark Diederichs, Mark F. Green, and Ugo Piomelli were elected to the Canadian Academy of Engineering.

Research that made headlines around the world

An exoskeleton designed by Queen's engineering researchers Michael Shepertycky, Qingguo Li, and Yan-Fei Liu that improves walking efficiency was featured in the leading academic journal Science and international media outlets, including the New York Times.

Health expert Christopher Mueller developed mDETECT, a cancer detection test that provides a real-time response to chemotherapy and early detection of relapse, while researchers Amber Simpson and Farhana Zulkernine applied AI and natural language processing techniques to CT scans, to predict cancer spread.

The much-anticipated UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) dominated headlines around the world and Queen’s environmental experts Kyla Tienhaara and John Smol shared their hopes for conference outcomes. On the ground at COP26, Ryan Riordan of the Institute for Sustainable Finance provided key takeaways and next steps for global governments. In the Canadian arctic, Queen’s researchers, the Government of Nunavut, and Indigenous community partners worked together to develop an innovative approach to studying the impact of climate change by monitoring the health and movements of polar bears.

[Photo of polar bears in the Artic]
BEARWATCH, a project led by Queen's researchers in partnership with local communities, governments, and other university collaborators, received funding from Genome Canada's Large-Scale Applied Research Project competition and the Ontario Genomics Institute to develop a non-invasive method for tracking polar bear health in the Canadian Artic.

New research by Chris Spencer showed that the mid-Proterozoic period, about 1.8 to 0.8 billion years ago, dubbed as the “boring billon” was actually a time of great mountain-building events. Researchers at the Queen’s Facility for Isotope Research joined the cast from The Curse of Oak Island to hunt for gold and silver treasure sediments in the water collected from boreholes on a Nova Scotia isle.

[Photo of highly deformed rocks from the Sperrgebiet region of Southern Namibia by Christopher Spencer]
A geologist exploring 1-billion-year-old and highly deformed rocks from the Sperrgebiet region of southern Namibia. These rocks experienced significant deformation and extreme metamorphism during a continental collision over a billion years ago. (Photo by Christopher Spencer)

Funding future research

In 2021, Queen’s continued to attract competitive funding and awards, through a number of national and international programs. Hundreds of grants for new projects and research infrastructure were secured through CHIR, SSHRC, NSERC, and CFI, Canada’s national funding agencies, and other partners.

Here are a few examples:

  • More than $10 million was secured by Queen’s researchers through CFI’s Innovation Fund for infrastructure that will help to combat climate change, treat cancer, and understand the fabric of the universe
  • Over $6 million was awarded to Queen’s researchers through NSERC’s Alliance Grants to collaborate with industry partners in areas such as computing, wireless communications, and nuclear power
  • Eight doctoral students earned prestigious Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarships for exceptional scholarly achievement and leadership skills
  • Over 125 Queen’s researchers across disciplines received support from SSHRC, the Canada Research Chairs Program, and NSERC as part of a bundled funding announcement under the banner of “Supporting BIG Ideas”
  • Queen’s researchers received over $11.5M funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research for projects addressing human health issues from cancer and pain to healthy aging
  • With $1.6 million in funding, NSERC’s CREATE program supported the implementation of an experiential graduate training and research program in medical informatics, led by Parvin Mousavi at Queen’s
  • A multidisciplinary team of Queen’s researchers received $7.9 million from Genome Canada for a new project exploring a microbial platform for breaking down and valorizing waste plastic, which can then be repurposed to produce recycled products
  • Cathy Crudden received the largest NSERC Discovery Grant in Canada (valued at $605k over five years) for her breakthrough work in novel organic coatings

[Photo of a researcher reviewing a sample on a desktop]

Mobilizing our knowledge

This year, we were again challenged to find creative ways to engage with our audiences and mobilize expertise. Research and alumni experts joined forces to provide insight into our post-pandemic future, through the Road to Recovery virtual event series. These events, moderated by multimedia journalist and Queen’s alumnus Elamin Abdelmahmoud, reached over 1000 attendees.  

Science Rendezvous Kingston celebrated its milestone 10th anniversary and marked it with a series of virtual events and the development of an interactive, virtual Exploratorium with no geographical limitations to participation. Audiences also had the opportunity to experience, in-person and virtually, artistic interpretations of the elusive dark matter. The exhibition and residency project, Drift: Art and Dark Matter, generated by Agnes Etherington Art Centre, the McDonald Institute, and SNOLAB, brought together artists and scientists in the quest to understand the invisible substance that comprises about 80 per cent of the universe.

[osèfa Ntjam, Organic Nebula (detail), 2019, carpet, photomontage. Collection of the artist.]
Josèfa Ntjam, Organic Nebula (detail), 2019, carpet, photomontage. Collection of the artist.

The WE-Can (Women Entrepreneurs Canada) program led by Queen’s Partnerships and Innovation (QPI) celebrated supporting over 800 women from underrepresented groups and sectors regionally in achieving their entrepreneurial goals and pivoting their programs to an online format. This year’s virtual Indigenous Research Collaboration Day incorporated the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals in highlighting the importance of collaboration in research with Indigenous communities.

Hundreds of Queen’s researchers provided expert commentary to the media in 2021, and our community continued to mobilize their research and expertise through fact-based analysis on The Conversation Canada’s news platform. In 2021, 77 Queen’s graduate students and faculty published 74 articles that garnered over 1.5 million reads.


Congratulations to the Queen’s research community for their resilience and successes this year. We look forward to seeing what new research and opportunities 2022 will bring. For more information about research at the university, visit the Research@Queen’s website.

Queen’s updates community on implications of latest provincial guidelines

Some university operations to change to align with province's latest reopening and long-term COVID-19 management plan.

The provincial government recently announced the Plan to Safely Reopen Ontario and Manage COVID-19 for the Long-TermThis plan outlines Ontario’s approach to slowly lifting remaining public health and workplace safety measures over the next six months. As of Monday, Oct. 25, capacity limits have been lifted in most settings where proof of vaccination is required, such as restaurants and sports facilities.

Work is underway to assess how the regulation changes will impact Queen’s operations. Below is a summary of the upcoming changes that we know of at this time.

Athletics and Recreation Centre (ARC)

As of Friday, Oct. 29, masks are required in the ARC at all times, except while performing physical activity. Please see the ARC website for further changes to facility protocols.

Eating and Drinking on Campus

Seating capacities in dining halls and retail food outlets will be increased over the next few weeks.

The new regulations may make it possible for more options for eating and drinking in certain buildings; however, vaccination status will need to be confirmed to access these spaces. Further details on additional designated eating and drinking spaces on campus will be communicated by faculties and schools as soon as possible. We ask for your patience as the university works through the implementation of these changes.

Student-Led On-Campus Activities

As the university has now successfully transitioned to in-person academic activities, the Co-Curricular Restart Advisory Group (CRAG) will be dissolved and approval of student-led co-curricular activities and events will follow the usual event sanctioning process through the AMS and SGPS. The AMS and SGPS have worked closely with the Executive Director, Risk and Safety Services to develop additional criteria, in alignment with the government regulations under Step 3, for their non-academic activity approval process to help mitigate the risk of COVID-19 transmission. Please note that on-campus non-academic activities continue to be limited to 25 people indoors and 100 people outdoors for the time being and all attendees must comply with Queen’s COVID-19 Vaccination Policy. Review of the new government regulations will direct any changes to the criteria for non-academic activities on-campus and the Queen’s Fall 2021 Event Planning Guidelines.

As noted, an assessment is underway to determine how the recent regulation changes will impact campus operations, including the lifting of capacity limits in non-instructional spaces on campus. Additional information will be shared once further details are known.

Thank you to Queen’s students, staff, and faculty for your committed efforts to support the health of our community over the past 18 months by adhering to the public health restrictions and getting vaccinated. It is thanks to your efforts that Queen’s has been able to successfully transition to in-person activities in the fall term.

Experts discuss resiliency during COVID-19

On Oct. 14, Queen’s researchers and alumni will provide insight into our post-pandemic future.

[Road to Recovery: Resilience - Queen's Virtual Event]

With ongoing vaccine distribution, increasing vaccination rates, and case numbers decreasing in Canada, there is an opportunity to have thoughtful and candid conversations about the future beyond COVID-19. The pandemic and its impact continue to evolve and so do our questions about how it affects us all, on a local to a global scale. From examining the implications of the fourth wave and variants of concern to a greater focus on what economic recovery looks like and what changes in social norms mean going forward, there is an opportunity to reflect on how resiliency has shaped our actions during the pandemic and will continue to do so for the future.

Offered as part of the virtual Homecoming lineup this year, University Relations and the Office of Advancement have teamed up to present another installment of the free and open-to-the-public Road to Recovery event series on Thursday, Oct. 14 at 1 p.m. EDT. Queen’s alumnus Elamin Abdelmahmoud (Artsci’11) will reprise his role as moderator for this edition on resilience. Host of CBC’s weekly pop culture podcast Pop Chat, co-host of CBC’s political podcast Party Lines, and culture editor for Buzzfeed News, Abdelmahmoud will provide expert insight into what is top of mind for Canadians and ask the questions we all have about this next stage of the pandemic.

Joining Abdelmahmoud for the discussion will be experts in economic recovery, politics, public opinion, and health care. They are:

  • Christopher Cotton – Jarislowsky-Deutsch Chair in Economic & Financial Policy at Queen’s University and member of the Royal Society of Canada’s COVID-19 Working Group on Economic Recovery and Global Canada’s COVID Strategic Choices Group
  • Elizabeth Goodyear-Grant – Professor in the Department of Political Studies, Director of the Canadian Opinion Archive at Queen’s University, and author of Gendered News: Media Coverage and Electoral Politics in Canada
  • Rico Garcia Ondarza – President of the Queen’s University Alumni Association (QUAA) and Engagement Manager at McKinsey & Company focused on economic, financial, and sector-based strategy development for government and public sector institutions
  • Gerald Evans – Chair, Division of Infectious Diseases at Queen’s University and member of the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table, the Ontario COVID-19 Testing Strategy and Policy Task Force and the Ontario COVID-19 Behavioural Sciences Working Group

 Join the Q&A discussion and register for the Road to Recovery: Resilience.

What is next for COVID-19?

From mandatory vaccinations to booster shots: Q & A with Queen’s infectious disease expert, Dr. Gerald Evans 

As Canada and the world navigates the COVID-19 pandemic, advice from health care experts is constantly evolving as we learn more about the virus and its variants of concern. Gerald Evans, Chair, Division of Infectious Diseases, Professor of Medicine and Medical Director, Infection Prevention and Control, Kingston Health Sciences Centre, and member of the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table, recently spoke to the Gazette about where we stand in the fight against the pandemic.

What is the COVID-19 pandemic going to look like this fall?

It is uncertain at this point as we are waiting to see the impact of schools returning to in-person learning. At the moment, the fourth wave appears to be muted with no exponential growth, but this could change.

Infectious Disease Expert, Dr. Gerald Evans

What should be our biggest concern when studying COVID-19 data – ICU numbers or community case counts?

Now that vaccination rates in Ontario are greater than 80 per cent of the eligible population, the number of cases in hospital and ICU are more relevant to understanding any ongoing serious impact of COVID-19. Most community cases and positive tests are less of an issue as the impact of these is reduced in a heavily vaccinated population. Rises in severe cases (hospitalized and ICU) might require a return to earlier stages in the re-opening strategy being used here in Ontario.

Will mandatory vaccinations on university campuses make a big difference this year?

Absolutely. With rates of fully vaccinated persons (faculty, staff, and students) approaching 99 per cent at Queen’s, this will dramatically reduce case numbers and reduce transmission, alongside other measures like masking, amongst the population of persons on campus.

People have questions about the effectiveness of our vaccines against the Delta variant. How effective are they and how do we interpret the data?

All the current vaccines maintain very high efficacy against severe COVID-19 disease (approximately 90 per cent) as well as protection from infection by SARS-CoV-2 (approximately 75 to 80 per cent) due to the Delta variant.

Are there any other variants we should be worried about this fall?

At this time, no other variants exist that can out-compete Delta, which now accounts for more than 99 per cent of all SARS-CoV-2 infections in Ontario and Canada. In addition, there has been no variant yet found that demonstrates vaccine escape.

Will the general population need a COVID-19 booster shot? If so, under what circumstances?

As we move forward the answer to this question will be more apparent. Having said that, it is more rather than less likely that at some point a booster(s) will be needed in most adult vaccine recipients, as we assess the predictability of antibody levels and clinical endpoints amongst those vaccinated. Stay tuned.

Will we see a return of the flu and other respiratory viruses this fall and winter?

Since we have relaxed some Public Health measures with rising vaccination rates, it is almost certain that we will see the re-emergence of other respiratory viruses this fall/winter. This has been observed in various jurisdictions around the world. Seasonal viruses like influenza and Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV), which are transmitted by similar routes like SARS-CoV-2 (Droplet/aerosol and contact), have now been described as increasing in countries that have loosened Public Health restrictions. As a result, having a flu shot this fall is even more important than in the past.

 

Dr. Evans served as guest speaker at the Principal’s Town Hall on Sept. 7, where he, along with other senior leaders, answered many questions from staff and faculty on how we can ensure a safe environment for everyone on campus. The recording is available here.

Masking and enhanced precautions

Queen's University shares information on masking guidelines, rapid testing, and more.

As we continue our safe return to campus, vaccination against COVID-19 is an essential part of our plan to protect the health and safety of everyone, but we also need to ensure we are all taking additional precautions to stop the spread of COVID-19, especially the extremely contagious Delta variant.

Mask Requirements

Wearing masks is required inside all campus buildings, and masks need to be worn properly, covering the nose, mouth and chin. Masks are also recommended to be worn outside if physical distancing cannot be maintained.

Enhanced Precautions, Including Rapid Testing

Individuals who:

  • have submitted an accommodation request and are awaiting a decision,
  • have received an approved accommodation,
  • have had only one dose of a two-dose vaccine, or
  • are waiting for 14 days to pass after receiving the final dose of a vaccine,

must follow additional health and safety precautions while participating in in-person university activities. Effective immediately, these enhanced precautions include:

  • Complete a rapid test twice a week and report your results. More specific information on accessing and completing these tests is being shared directly with those required to take them to access campus.
  • Access to food options on university property is limited to take-out only at retail food outlets and campus dining halls.
  • Only individuals who are fully vaccinated will be able access to the Athletics and Recreation Centre and to participate in any Athletics and Recreation sanctioned indoor or outdoor activities (including intramurals and in-person fitness classes) or attend any sporting events. 

Vaccine Declaration Form

All students, faculty, and staff were required to fill out a vaccination status declaration form no later than September 13. Those who have not filled out the form are being contacted by Human Resources or their faculties to facilitate completion.

Screening Before Coming to Campus

Before coming to campus each day, all individuals are required to self-screen themselves for COVID-19.

  • Faculty and Staff must download and complete the SeQure app daily self-assessment prior to attending University Property.
  • Students should conduct a daily self-assessment before they attend university property. Students are encouraged to download and complete the SeQure app self-assessment. Alternatively, they can use the Ontario government self-assessment tool.

Based on the answers provided, the assessment will advise users whether it is safe to come to campus. Those who have tested positive for COVID-19, who are awaiting COVID-19 test results, or who are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 must not come to campus or attend class, even if they are fully vaccinated.

For more details on these enhanced precautions, including specific precautions for employees, and other COVID-19 information, visit the Campus Operations Guidelines website, as well as the Safe Return to Campus website.

Please follow additional program-level health and safety requirements as required. Thank you for doing your part to stop the spread of COVID-19 and keep our community safe and healthy this fall.

An informative welcome for students

Queen’s staff and student volunteers hand out welcome kits filled with important information related to COVID-19 as well as living in Kingston.

  • Barb Lotan, Sexual Violence Prevention and Response Coordinator, joins the team that went door-to-door in the near-campus neighbourhoods handing out welcome kits. (University Communications)
    Barb Lotan, Sexual Violence Prevention and Response Coordinator, joins the team that went door-to-door in the near-campus neighbourhoods handing out welcome kits. (University Communications)
  • Mary Ann Tierney, Manager, Student Community Relations, Student Affairs, hands over a welcome kit which included the Off-Campus Student Living Guide, and donated items from Student Wellness Services, Human Rights and Equity Office, Student Experience Office, Campus Book Store, and KFL&A Public Health. (University Communications)
    Mary Ann Tierney, Manager, Student Community Relations, Student Affairs, hands over a welcome kit which included the Off-Campus Student Living Guide, and donated items from Student Wellness Services, Human Rights and Equity Office, Student Experience Office, Campus Book Store, and KFL&A Public Health. (University Communications)
  • Kate Humphrys, Health Promotion Coordinator, Student Wellness Services, speaks with two Queen's students about COVID-19 safety and listens to the questions they had about the 2021-22 academic year. (University Communications)
    Kate Humphrys, Health Promotion Coordinator, Student Wellness Services, speaks with two Queen's students about COVID-19 safety and listens to the questions they had about the 2021-22 academic year. (University Communications)
  • A team member knocks on the door of a house located near Queen's campus as part of an effort to welcome students back to Queen's and provide information about COVID-19 resources and living in Kingston. (University Communications)
    A team member knocks on the door of a house located near Queen's campus as part of a campaign to welcome students back to Queen's and provide information about COVID-19 resources and living in Kingston. (University Communications)

A team of Queen’s staff and student volunteers went door-to-door in the university district neighbourhoods on Sept. 8-10, welcoming students who have returned to Queen’s and Kingston.

Team members shared information on COVID-19 safety and resources, reminded students to fill out the university’s online vaccination status declaration form, and promoted the availability of vaccines.

Through an ongoing partnership with Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington Public Health, the mobile vaccination clinic bus was parked at Earl and Aberdeen streets, and 128 COVID-19 vaccinations were given to students as part of this initiative.

Team members also handed out welcome kits filled with important information related to COVID-19 as well as living in Kingston.

Mary Ann Tierney, Manager, Student Community Relations, Student Affairs, who led the initiative, says that her experience speaking with students was extremely positive.

“The students were genuinely grateful that we were stopping by to say hello, check-in, and to see if they had questions regarding living off-campus or regarding local by-laws,” she says, adding that she and her colleagues connected with approximately 1,000 students over the three days. “A common theme that kept coming up during our conversations is that students are very happy to be back in the classroom for in-person learning.”

The Queen’s team partnered with City of Kingston by-law enforcement. Several by-law staff joined the walkabouts and helped provide further details about specific by-laws related to large gatherings, provincial regulations, property standards, and other questions from students. Also taking part were university partners from Student Wellness Services, the Human Rights and Equity Office, Off-Campus Living, and Athletics & Recreation.

As they made their way along near-campus streets, team members had many frank conversations with students. Students were also able to ask any questions about the 2021-22 academic year and university resources the university provides.

“It is very important that our students are aware of and understand their responsibilities as not only members of the Queen’s community but of the Kingston community,” says Lindsay Winger, Assistant Dean of Student Affairs, Support Services and Community Engagement. “As we continue to make our way through the pandemic, it’s important that we work together, stay informed, and help everyone stay safe and healthy.”

A total of 600 welcome kits were distributed and included the Off-Campus Student Living Guide, the City of Kingston’s waste sorting guide, 400 garbage bag tags from Waste Management, along with donated goodies from Student Wellness Services, Human Rights and Equity Office, Student Experience Office, Campus Book Store, and KFL&A Public Health.

The Off-Campus Student Living Guide helps connect students to all of the services and supports available from the university. It also helps them understand how to play a positive role in the community during the pandemic. The guide covers a wide variety of topics, including tips on staying informed, getting engaged in the community, keeping the community safe, and exploring Kingston.  

To learn more about visit the websites below:
Student Community Relations
Safe Return to Campus website

Over 32,000 Queen’s community members have declared vaccination status to date

96 per cent of employees and 94 per cent of students report full vaccination.

Over 6,000 more Queen’s community members declared their vaccination status this week, bringing the total number of students and employees reporting to over 32,200.

Employees comprise 5,600 of those who have filled out the required form — 96 per cent of whom are fully vaccinated and another 2.7 per cent partially vaccinated.

More than 26,600 students have declared their vaccination status, with 93.7 per cent reporting full vaccination and another 4.7 per cent partially vaccinated.

Only 1.4 per cent of students and 1.1 per cent of employees have stated they are not vaccinated. Individuals within the Queen’s community must submit their Vaccination Status Declaration Form no later than Sept. 13, 2021.

Nearly 26,000 Queen's community members declare vaccination status

In less than a week, almost 26,000 Queen’s community members have completed the vaccination status declaration form — up another 12,000 since last reported.

Out of 4,285 employees who have declared to date, 97.6 per cent are fully vaccinated, with another 1.87 per cent partially vaccinated. To date, 21,687 students have submitted their declaration, with 94.68 per cent declaring full vaccination, and another 4.26 per cent reporting partial vaccination. All respondents have also uploaded proof of their vaccination status as part of the declaration process.

Of the current respondents, only one per cent of students and 0.5 per cent of employees have stated they are not vaccinated. If individuals have yet to declare their vaccination status, visit the vaccination status declaration form and do so as soon as possible.

Decoding COVID-19

Queen's researchers are leading Canadian efforts to better understand the virus through genomics.

Dr. Maslove looks to uncover the secrets of our DNA and what they can tell us  about how our bodies respond to COVID-19.Credit: Kingston Health Sciences Centre
Dr. David Maslove (Medicine and Critical Care Medicine). Photo credit: Kingston Health Sciences Centre

Over the course of the pandemic, there has been one question about the COVID-19 virus that continues to resurface. Why does the virus seem to randomly affect certain patients more than others? Researchers at Queen's and Kingston Health Sciences Centre (KHSC) are leading the Canadian effort to find out; and the answer may lay in our DNA.

"At a high-level, the medical community has always wondered why some people get sick with certain types of infections and end up in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and others don’t. The pandemic gave us an opportunity to look into this further," says KHSC intensive care specialist and Queen’s University Associate Professor David Maslove.

So the study set out to determine why some people in the early stages of the pandemic seemingly contracted COVID-19 and suffered only mild symptoms, while others, many who were young and in generally good health ended up in the ICU on a ventilator.

“When COVID patients come into ICU, we take one tube of blood and send it to Sick Kids Hospital to sequence the patient’s entire genome in their laboratory,” Dr. Maslove says. “So far, the GenOMICC study has shown that critical illness from COVID is associated with certain genetic traits. This gives us a better understanding of the disease. If we can learn about how the body is responding, we could learn how to better treat, or prevent people from getting severe COVID.”

With startup funding from the Southeastern Ontario Academic Medical Organization (SEAMO), Canada became the first country to export the GenOMICC study outside of the United Kingdom, where it was started by Dr. Kenneth Baillie.

So far, more than 10,000 patients have been recruited around the world, with a goal of recruiting 100,000 in total. Nearly 100 patient participants have been recruited through KHSC, and the team has initiated further participation of close to 300 patients in Ontario. Currently teams in the United States, Australia, China and India are in the process of setting themselves up to begin recruiting patients.

The Queen's and KHSC team, including Hematopathologist Michael Rauh (Pathology and Molecular Medicine, Queen's Cancer Research Institute), is now currently reviewing the data from the fully sequenced genomes of patients from 2020. The sequencing of more recent patient participants is now underway.

“We hope to carry the research forward after the pandemic, so when someone comes to the ICU with something odd or unexplained we can take a tube of blood and do this work to better understand why they are sick,” says Dr. Maslove. “ICUs are the canary in the coal mine. Infections or diseases are seen in the ICU early, and from a public health perspective we could have a better network to identify trends earlier in future pandemics.”

This article originally appeared in KHSC Connect.

Principal, AMS president’s message to students

In email to all students, Principal Patrick Deane and AMS President Zaid Kasim speak about what it's going to take for Queen's to have a safe and successful year.

Dear Students,

We write to you today to formally announce that the provincial government has agreed to allow universities to move forward with their in-person teaching plans for the fall and to welcome you to campus. This is of course, a cause for celebration as for over a year most of you have been learning remotely. Some of you have yet to experience a Queen’s classroom experience. We are all excited for what will finally resume next week but this allowance by the province for our instructional programs to operate outside of the Step 3 restrictions that still apply to most aspects of our community’s broader operations comes with responsibilities. 

We must implement a mandatory vaccine policy which you heard about on Wednesday. This has been imposed to ensure that easing of some restrictions in certain parts of our institution can be balanced with tighter restrictions in others. We must be aware that the current exemption from Step 3 requirements for teaching and learning are tenuous. There is no guarantee how long they will last and activity that compromises the health and safety of our community puts our teaching plans at significant risk. 

Over the last few days, large student gatherings have been occurring around our campus. This is a flagrant disregard for public health and for the law of our province. We support our city enforcement officers and police as they work to address these illegal activities and we will work with our partners when they refer students to us for processing under our Student Code of Conduct. 

While consequences for this behaviour will be imposed, we acknowledge that the best way to put a stop to this recklessness is to band together and speak directly to those individuals who are jeopardizing our academic year. We have been working for 18 months to get students back in the classrooms so we can experience what higher education is all about, learning in an environment of respect where knowledge and with it intellectual and social development are paramount. 

The majority of our students just want to learn in a classroom with their peers. They want to continue their programs and enjoy the full experience of their classes and their direct interaction with their fellow students and professors. They are tired and their mental health has been compromised by months of being locked inside. Behaviour of a few cannot and indeed, should not compromise what we believe our students want from Queen’s. 

We have come so far and it would be a travesty if we could not get back to what we have all been waiting for so very long. Universities are for learning. Please remember that this weekend and over the coming months and let’s be sure that we will be learning in classrooms next week and all the months to follow.

Patrick Deane
Principal and Vice-Chancellor

Zaid Kasim
AMS President

 

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