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Confronting COVID-19

Is DNA key to whether you get COVID-19?

Queen’s researcher leads Canadian arm of international project aiming to sequence the genomes of 100,000 COVID-19 patients to better understand their genes and the disease.

Artist's concept of DNA strands
New evidence may suggest more men get coronavirus than women has motivated an international hunt for which genes make people especially vulnerable or resistant to COVID-19. (Shutterstock)

The strength and health of one’s immune system is one key indicator of susceptibility to contracting pathogens, including the novel coronavirus. However, new evidence that may suggest more men get coronavirus than women has motivated an international hunt for which genes make people especially vulnerable or resistant to COVID-19.

Canada, in partnership with teams in the United Kingdom and the United States, hopes to contribute the fully decoded genomes of 10,000 COVID-19 patients to better understand the genes behind the disease – part of a global mission that’s aiming for 100,000 genomes. With support from the SEAMO (Southeastern Ontario Academic Medical Organization), the Canadian arm of the project is being coordinated by David Maslove, Clinician Scientist with the Department of Medicine and Critical Care Program at Queen’s and intensive care doctor at Kingston Health Sciences Centre.

Dr. Maslove spoke to the Queen's Gazette about the potential links between DNA and coronavirus as well as the international project underway.

What is the suspected connection between DNA and coronavirus susceptibility?                                              

Previous studies have shown that susceptibility to infection may be, at least in part, genetically determined. For instance, large-scale, epidemiological studies show that likelihood of dying from an infection is at least five times more heritable than the likelihood of dying from cancer, even though we typically think of the latter, rather than the former, as a genetically determined condition.

The genes that control the immune system are some of the most diverse among humans, and lab studies have shown how different molecular characteristics influence the way in which people respond to infection. With respect to coronavirus in particular, early studies have identified some risk factors, such as age, hypertension, and diabetes, but these don’t appear to tell the whole story. Additional variability is seen in who gets a mild case, and who develops critical illness, with reason to suspect that some of that variability is determined by our genetics. 

Are there specific genes that make people more likely to be infected by coronavirus?

Early studies are beginning to shed some light on this, though the results remain preliminary. A European research group found associations between genes involved in determining blood type and the need for breathing support in COVID-19. Other groups have proposed that differences in the genetic regulation of ACE2 – a protein that the virus uses to gain entry into cells – may be associated with different outcomes for coronavirus patients. Others are looking to see if genetic differences in sex chromosomes (X and Y) may in part explain why early reports showed worse outcomes among males as compared to females. 

Drs. David Maslove and Michael Rauh
Drs. David Maslove and Michael Rauh have received funding from SEAMO to coordinate the Canadian arm of the GenOMICC study.

Are the reports that COVID-19 is more dangerous for men true?

Reports from some areas that have been hardest hit do suggest a higher mortality rate among men. Others are a little more equivocal. The reasons for these differences remain unclear. Genetics may play a role, since biological sex is genetically determined, though other factors may be important as well. 

If you can pinpoint the genes, will it lead to more treatment options?

This is our hope. Identifying specific genes means identifying the molecular pathways they influence. The hope is that these will yield important insights into how the coronavirus infects our cells, and how the body responds. This could lead to treatments that make susceptible people react more like those who are resistant to severe infection.

Can you tell me about the objectives of the GenOMICC study, the international initiative to fully decode the genomes of 100,000 COVID-19 patients? What is Canada’s contribution to this project?

Pinpointing the genetic determinants of COVID-19 will require sequencing the genomes of a great many patients – likely tens of thousands. There are large-scale coordinated efforts going on internationally to try to harmonize studies and get to these large sample sizes as quickly as possible. We at Queen’s are collaborating with researchers in the UK who have already sequenced genomes from about 2,500 patients there, through a research program called GenOMICC. Here at Queen’s, Dr. Michael Rauh and I have received funding from SEAMO to coordinate the Canadian arm of the GenOMICC study. We are also coordinating our efforts with a Canadian consortium that has benefited from federal funding to be used for this purpose. Canada has a key role to play because of our expertise in genomics, as well as a longstanding and internationally renowned track record of collaborative critical care research. 

Principal’s online town hall available online

A video recording of the online town hall with Principal Patrick Deane on Wednesday, July 22, is now available online, so that Queen’s community members have another chance to watch the event.

Principal Deane answered questions from the community with the support of other senior leadership team members including Provost Mark Green, Vice-Principal (Research) Kimberly Woodhouse, Vice-Principal (Finance and Administration) Donna Janiec and Dean, Faculty of Health Sciences Jane Philpott, while Stephanie Simpson, Associate Vice-Principal (Human Rights, Equity & Inclusion), was the host/moderator, and Kanonhsyonne Janice Hill, Associate Vice-Principal (Indigenous Initiatives and Reconciliation), Office of Indigenous Initiatives, provided a welcome and closing.

Queen’s makes face masks mandatory in all public areas of campus

To help reduce the potential spread of COVID-19, all individuals in indoor public or common spaces at Queen’s will be required to wear a face covering starting July 24. This includes lobbies, hallways, stairwells, restrooms, elevators, and other areas that are shared with others.

Examples of where face coverings are not required include:

  • while working alone in one’s own (non-public/non-student) work area/office/lab/research space
  • while working behind plexiglass servicing people and where a physical distancing of at least 2m can be maintained
  • when eating or drinking (with 2m physical distancing being maintained)

Exemptions are provided for people with underlying medical conditions that inhibit their ability to wear masks as noted by KFL&A Public Health. It should also be noted that face coverings do not replace required job-specific Personal Protective Equipment, such as medical/procedure masks, face shields or respirators. Also, the use of reusable cloth face masks may not be suitable in certain environments (i.e. chemical, radiological, biological labs). In these instances, disposable masks, appropriate to the hazard, need to be considered if physical distancing cannot be maintained.

In addition to wearing a face mask, it’s important everyone continues to carry out a range of health and safety actions, including physical distancing where possible, frequent hand-washing, using hand sanitizer, avoiding touching your face, disinfecting high-touch surfaces, and self-monitoring for COVID-19 symptoms. More information on measures in place at Queen’s is also available on the university’s COVID-19 website.

Please refer to guidelines for current information on who is currently allowed to be attending the Queen’s campus.

Information on face mask distribution

To support this important safety measure, Queen’s has purchased two cloth face masks for each employee. These masks will be distributed to employees as they are permitted to return to campus as part of a phased return to regular operations.

Cloth masks can be picked up by Queen’s employees at the Queen’s Postal & Print Services (QPPS) office in Fleming Hall, Jemmett Wing, Room 001. Employees are reminded to practice physical distancing when entering the building. As this wing is not considered accessible, if you need assistance please contact QPPS at (613) 533-6305 and your items will be delivered curbside to your vehicle.

We ask that only those authorized to be on campus pick up their cloth masks. Strategic Procurement Services will work with Faculties and departments on a broader distribution plan as campus operations are approved to resume.

Cloth masks will be made available to students who are required to be on campus and a process for distribution is currently being determined.

Individuals can also use their own masks or face covering.

Life-saving labels

New software developed at Queen’s University helps reduce human error in data collection and management, including for COVID-19 testing.

How many times have you struggled to interpret messy handwriting or a label on a meal deep in your freezer? It can be a frustrating occurrence.

However, when labeling challenges occur in a laboratory, the consequences can be much more severe. The concern has never been greater with the onset of COVID-19, where misidentified labels could have life-changing outcomes.

A team of researchers within the Department of Biology at Queen’s, including Drs. Robert Colautti, Virginia Walker, Stephen Lougheed and Master’s student Yihan Wu have developed a new, flexible research software program that aims to make sample management more reproducible and less prone to human error.

The program is called baRcodeR. This is how it works: Scientists who work with biological samples might record additional information including date, location, measurements, test results, and other observations. Large collaborative projects, like those tracking COVID-19, can require samples and data to be coordinated among hundreds or even thousands of scientists and students working collaboratively from around the world.

“There are a lot of computational tools in the field of ‘data science’ that allow for reproducible workflows, but these focus on data after it is collected,” says Dr. Colautti, Canada Research Chair in Rapid Evolution. “Our program applies these principles to sample labeling and management. Accurate data collection and sample management are crucial to reliable analysis.”

The development of the software came as the result of three large international research projects by the collaborators.

“All three of us (Drs. Walker, Lougheed and Colautti) were each involved in different, large international collaborative research projects, where data collection and data management were becoming a big issue," says Dr. Colautti. These projects included the Global Garlic Mustard Field SurveyTSFN, a project on sustainable fisheries in Canada’s North, and Bearwatch, a polar bear project. “When discussing these very different projects, we realized there was a common set of problems with sample collection and labeling that we couldn’t address with off-the-shelf software.”

Any error with labeling or data management can have serious consequences. For example, according to Dr. Colautti, a mere one per cent labeling error in the more than 80 million COVID-19 tests conducted worldwide could yield hundreds of thousands of misdiagnoses, including tens of thousands of infected patients erroneously cleared to return to work and regular activity. Human errors at this scale are inevitable, particularly for frontline workers who face the mental challenges that come with working long hours under difficult conditions.

The researchers hope that baRcodeR can help remedy some of these issues and, so far, the free, open-access software has been downloaded over 13,000 times and is already being used south of the border.

“baRcodeR is very much in daily use in our ongoing efforts to conduct COVID-19 research in populations of first responders, frontline health care workers, frontline city workers like bus drivers, and a population of local school children and their families” says Chris Barnes, Director of Clinical and Translational Science Informatics and Technology at the University of Florida.

The article “baRcodeR: An open-source R package for sample labeling” appeared in the June 23 issue of Methods in Ecology and Evolution. The software is available through the Comprehensive R Archine Network (CRAN) and the Colautti Lab website.

Joining forces for innovative technology solutions to COVID-19

Queen’s researchers are partnering with industry to transform decision-making and healthcare through two Digital Technology Supercluster projects

[Logo: Digital Technology Superclusters]

 

In response to COVID-19 many Queen’s researchers have been building on their industry partnerships to help rapidly pivot and mobilize their research to address some of the many complex problems posed by the pandemic. Many collaborations have been formed to help not only respond to immediate issues, but to also look to the future as we assess the crisis’s impact throughout society.

Digital Technology Supercluster

What is the Supercluster Initiative?
Announced in 2017 by Minister Navdeep Bains, superclusters are high-tech collaborations led by industry with academic institutions, not-for-profit organizations, and companies of all sizes working together to spur innovation and job creation around certain broad themes. Supported by a $950 million federal investment and located across Canada, five superclusters have been created to support advancements for oceans, AI, advanced manufacturing, protein industries, and digital technology. Learn more.

Two such projects that include partnerships with Queen’s, focused on predictive modelling and cancer testing and treatment, have received more than $4 million in funding through the Digital Technology Supercluster’s COVID-19 program. Part of the federal government’s Innovation Superclusters Initiative, the Digital Technology Supercluster fosters collaborations in healthcare, communications, natural resources, and transportation to support ambitious, solutions-oriented technology development projects that position Canada as a digital innovation leader. In response to COVID-19, the Supercluster developed a specific program with $60 million in funding to address digital transformation in the Canadian healthcare system. Both funded projects in which Queen’s is involved address the urgent needs to combat COVID-19, while also establishing infrastructure for future sector innovations.

Innovating the response to COVID-19

The Looking Glass: Protecting Canadians in a Return to Community project led by Kings Distributed Systems (KDS) will use predictive modelling to build a platform that will help decision-makers determine the impact that a proposed policy will have on public health and the economy. In addition to Queen’s researchers Troy Day and Felicia Magpantay (Mathematics), who will contribute leading epidemiological models, several of the project’s industry partners have participated in programs and received services from Queen’s Partnerships and Innovation (QPI). Through the formation of this project and past opportunities, QPI has supported some of the affiliated industry partners, such as Limestone Analytics, led by Queen’s professor Bahman Kashi (Economics), and the project lead, KDS, with mentorship, incubation space, and/or connections to resources, including the facilitation of a pilot project with Queen’s Centre for Advanced Computing, and receptors such as the Eastern Ontario Leadership Council and the Greater Kingston Chamber of Commerce. Additionally, industry partner aiSight through its founder Keyana Yeatman, ArtSci’20, has received support via the QPI WE-CAN Project and participated in the DDQIC QICSI program. With partners and contributors from a range of institutions and industry across Canada, this diverse collaboration will develop Looking Glass into a powerful tool to forecast not only COVID-19 infection rates from actions such as re-opening schools, but also other critical public health issues like vaccination campaigns and managing tick-borne diseases.

Project ACTT – Access to Cancer Testing & Treatment in Response to COVID-19 led by Canexia Health is focused on expanding access to minimally-invasive biopsies for patients with metastatic lung, breast, or colorectal cancer in response to surgery backlogs resulting from COVID-19. Principal Investigator for the project is Queen’s researcher Harriet Feilotter (Pathology and Molecular Medicine) and member of the Division of Cancer Biology and Genetics at Queen’s Cancer Research Institute. By testing circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) with technology that includes machine learning and AI for analysis, Project ACTT will detect fragments of cancer tumour DNA from just a patient blood sample. This project will also enable detection of a broader range of cancer types, along with targeted treatment matching, and almost double the reach of Canadian cancer patients each year. Not only is this new rapid test a less invasive method than surgical tissue biopsies, it also provides a remote delivery solution for cancer biopsies that minimizes exposure to COVID-19 in hospitals for high-risk individuals. As the project develops, they hope to make it possible to conduct these biopsies more efficiently within Canadian hospitals and labs and provide solutions for cancer testing in rural and remote areas.

"The Superclusters initiative demonstrates what we can do when we harness the collective strengths of industry, academia, and research," says Kimberly Woodhouse, Vice-Principal (Research). "Queen’s is a key partner in helping to grow these companies and collaborations, in the case of the Looking Glass project in particular, and providing vital expertise that will help in our national efforts to combat COVID-19 through strength in digital technology."

For more information on these and other COVID-19 Program projects, visit the Digital Technology Supercluster website. In addition, to learn more about how Queen’s researchers are combating COVID-19, explore the Confronting COVID-19 series.

Online town hall with Principal Patrick Deane for faculty and staff on July 22

Join Principal Patrick Deane in an online town hall for Queen's faculty and staff on July 22 10-11:30 am where he will answer questions about the current COVID-19 situation and our plans for the future. Stephanie Simpson, Associate Vice-Principal (Human Rights, Equity & Inclusion) will be the host/moderator.

Submit your question in advance and it may be answered live during the town hall. This event will also be recorded and shared on the Principal's website. 

Join the event here. You may be prompted to enter your Queen's Net ID.

Protecting cancer patients from COVID-19

A world-first clinical trial test designed at Queen’s launches a novel immune-boosting strategy.

Canadian researchers collaborating with the Canadian Cancer Trials Group at Queen’s University have launched an innovative clinical trial focused on strengthening the immune system against COVID-19. The trial focuses on one of the most vulnerable populations – cancer patients.  

The experiment involves IMM-101, a preparation of safe, heat-killed bacteria that broadly stimulates the innate, or “first-response,” arm of the immune system. The researchers hope that boosting cancer patients’ immune systems with IMM-101 will protect them from developing severe COVID-19 and other dangerous lung infections. 

"We know the immune systems of cancer patients are compromised both by their disease and the treatments they receive placing them at much higher risk of severe complications from COVID-19,” says Dr. Chris O’Callaghan,  Senior Investigator at The Canadian Cancer Trials Group and Professor in the Department of Public Health Sciences.  “These patients are unable to practice social isolation due to the need to regularly attend hospital to receive critically important cancer treatment.”

Researchers from The Ottawa Hospital came up with the idea for the trial and worked with the Canadian Cancer Trials Group (CCTG) at Queen’s University to design and run it in centres across the country. Funding and in-kind support, valued at $2.8 million, is being provided by the Canadian Cancer Society, BioCanRx, the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research, The Ottawa Hospital Foundation, The Ottawa Hospital Academic Medical Organization, ATGen Canada/NKMax, and Immodulon Therapeutics, the manufacturer of IMM-101. 

In the race to find new ways to prevent and treat COVID-19, this comes as encouraging news. “An effective vaccine that provides specific protection against COVID-19 could take another year or more to develop, test, and implement,” says Dr. Rebecca Auer, study lead, surgical oncologist, and Director of Cancer Research at The Ottawa Hospital and Associate Professor at the University of Ottawa. “In the meantime, there is an urgent need to protect people with cancer from severe COVID-19 infection, and we think this immune stimulator, IMM-101, may be able to do this.”

The trial, called CCTG IC.8, has been approved by Health Canada and is expected to open at cancer centres across Canada this summer. People who are interested in participating should speak with their cancer specialist.  

 

Queen’s steps up face mask recommendations and requirements on campus

In response to the recent COVID-19 outbreak in the Kingston region, Queen’s University is strongly encouraging employees and students currently on campus to wear a face covering in all common areas, particularly in spaces where maintaining physical distancing is challenging.

To support this important safety measure, Queen’s has purchased two cloth face masks for each employee. These masks will be distributed to employees as they are permitted to return to campus as part of a phased return to regular operations. Please refer to guidelines for current information on who is currently allowed to be attending the Queen’s campus.

At this time, Queen’s is also complying with the new order from KFL&A Public Health requiring everyone to wear a face covering while inside a public-facing commercial establishment. This currently applies to employees and customers in just a few areas of campus, including the Queen’s Centre and the Agnes Etherington Art Centre, which has been approved to reopen shortly.

Protecting the health and safety of those on campus, as well as the broader Kingston community, is the university's primary concern. It is important to note the local community and Queen’s are safe despite the recent increase in local cases. As always, everyone in the campus community is strongly encouraged to remain attentive and vigilant and to follow the latest infection prevention and control measures provided by KFL&A Public Health.

In addition to wearing a face mask, it’s important everyone carries out a range of health and safety actions, including frequent handwashing, using hand sanitizer, avoiding touching your face, disinfecting high-touch surfaces, and self-monitoring for COVID-19 symptoms. Everyone is also strongly encouraged to practice physical distancing of two metres (six feet), limit the size of groups, and avoid confined spaces, like elevators.

More information on measures in place at Queen’s is also available on the university’s COVID-19 website and also on the Vice-Principal (Research) website for those conducting human subject research.

Information on face mask distribution

Cloth masks can be picked up by Queen’s employees at the Queen’s Postal & Print Services (QPPS) office in Fleming Hall, Jemmett Wing, Room 001.  Employees are reminded to practice physical distancing as there are others picking up mail and/or COVID supply packages. As this building is not considered accessible, if you need assistance please contact QPPS at 613-533-6305 and your items will be delivered curbside to your vehicle.

At this time we ask that only those authorized to be on campus pick up their cloth masks. Strategic Procurement Services will work with faculties and departments on a broader distribution plan as campus operations are approved to resume.

Employees can also use their own masks or face covering.

Support for artists is key to returning to vibrant cultural life post-coronavirus

The Conversation: Policy makers and arts sectors together need to reimagine how we might organize contracts, leverage networks, and change supports to create more long-term opportunities for arts workers.

Three artists silhouetted on a theatre stage infront of a bright red curtain
Our society is vibrant in large part because it is infused with the work of artists and musicians. (Unsplash / Kyle Head)

Artists are crucial to the futures we’re imagining beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.

The vitality of the societies we wish to return to are vibrant in large part because they sound and look vibrant, because they are full of artists thriving and sharing music in a variety of settings.

Who hasn’t missed the sound of people out and about, revelling in society, culture and the arts — whether we are talking about the sound of a band spilling out onto a nighttime street, or the sound of friends meeting before a concert? Our society is vibrant in large part because it is infused with the work of artists and musicians.

As musicologist Julian Johnson writes in his book Who Needs Classical Music? music facilitates “a relation to an order of things larger than ourselves.” Through music, the self, he writes, “comes to understand itself more fully as a larger, trans-subjective identity.”

These words, evoking togetherness, community and shared experience, have become even more powerful in this strange time of self-isolation and solitude. In its ability to draw us together to listen and experience together, live music performance is a crucial marker and facilitator of community.

$24,300 annual income

If we look at one particular arts field, that of classical artists (such as classical musicians, conductors or opera singers), we know that even before the age of COVID-19, these artists were struggling to sustain themselves financially.

Despite the fact that culture contributed over $53 billion to Canada’s economy in 2017, the median individual income for Canada’s artists was $24,300: 44 per cent less than the median for all Canadian workers ($43,500).

Only those artists with economic privilege can afford the precarity of the gig economy, and income data suggests that white and male privilege also mitigates its harshness. According to Canadian census 2016 data, artists who are women, Indigenous or from racialized communities report even lower median incomes.

This year, many artists won’t even earn this much: between February and May, for example, nearly 200,000 workers in information, culture and recreation industries lost their jobs.

The federal government recently extended the term of the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) until the end of August. But many are concerned that even with these extended benefits, a return to performing might be months, if not years, away.

A Globe and Mail feature from the height of COVID-19’s first wave tells the heartbreaking stories of performers in various fields whose work has been put on hold as the result of the virus, also highlighting the terrifying scarcity of work and pay for musicians during this period.

The fragile, endangered ecosystem of music and musicians has been threatened by COVID-19, reported the New York Times.

Reticent audiences, even after the pandemic ends, will likely play a role in this: a survey conducted by the National Arts Centre and Nanos Research found that 34 per cent of Canadians are unsure when they will attend an indoor arts or cultural performance, even after venues have been reopened and are adhering to public health guidelines. This percentage is similar across age groups.

Gig economy

Many of these artists work in the gig economy and, as a result, have seen revenues evaporate — precious income they can ill afford to lose. Although many musicians are frustrated at the crisis created by COVID-19, those working in the arts were already in crisis. Quickly and starkly, the age of COVID-19 has not created, but rather has magnified, the precarious nature of creative work in our country.

Relief funding, both governmental and organizational, has been key, as are initiatives like the SaskMusic COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund, the Canada Performs relief fund initiative and even sector-specific artist support like the Opera Artist Emergency Relief Fund. The arts should figure prominently in the federal government’s infrastructure stimulus package.

But as we anticipate moving into phases of less physical distancing and aim to resume some social and economic activities (with larger gatherings on the far horizon), we must continue to think about the systems we build with an eye towards increasing stability for performing artists. The COVID-19 crisis should serve as a wake-up call. Our long-standing characterization of the struggling, starving artist must change.

This ideal response to this artistic crisis is one that includes responses from a variety of sectors: in post-secondary education and training, in arts policies and structures, and in the financial support we offer our artists.

Policy crisis

To begin with, the present crisis has once again illuminated the need for contemporary classical artists to be multi-skilled. Many recent studies reveal that Canadian artists trained in post-secondary music programs must build what are known as “portfolio” careers, which effectively encompass work from a variety of fields or areas.

Since such portfolio careers are often created and arrived upon by happenstance, it is high time to ask how they might be more systematically embedded into educational and cultural policies and programs. Artists must be taught to think creatively and passionately, as well as pragmatically and strategically.

But the current crisis is also a policy crisis. It illuminates the need to support artists more fulsomely and creatively throughout the various stages of their careers. Central to this is imagining ways to limit the precarity of the gig economy which, perhaps surprisingly, characterizes the careers of even the highest echelon of performers, classical or otherwise.

Guaranteed work

There are proven ways to do this. Throughout Europe, for example, many opera singers sing in what are known as Fest contracts, which guarantee work at that opera house in a variety of roles over the course of a given season. This is accompanied by a monthly salary, with paid benefits and health insurance included.

While this may not be feasible in the Canadian context, examples like this might spur us to think creatively about how we might organize contracts, leverage networks and reimagine supports to create more long-term opportunities for cultural workers. We might also rethink the extent to which the public may be underpaying for arts and entertainment.

As we dream about reconnecting in person, we should take advantage of this opportunity for a collective reconsideration of arts policy. COVID-19 has brought us a unique opportunity to rebuild and reimagine a vibrant cultural sector. We need to collectively support artists if we believe in supporting the arts.The Conversation

___________________________________________________________________

Colleen Renihan, Assistant Professor and Queen's National Scholar in Music Theatre and Opera, Queen's University; Ben Schnitzer, PhD Student, Cultural Studies, Queen's University, and Julia Brook, Assistant Professor in Music Education, Queen's University.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Conversations Confronting COVID-19 Virtual Event Series

With its first event on June 24, the new series aims to address some of the challenges and opportunities presented by the global pandemic

Watch the Discussion:


Since the global pandemic hit earlier this year, Canadians and global citizens have been confronted with a myriad of questions – from how to understand and treat the virus, to how to cope with life in quarantine, and what life will look like when we surface from this international crisis.

A new virtual event series, Conversations Confronting COVID-19, has been launched as part of the Discover Research@Queen’s campaign to examine these questions at the forefront of our minds and assess both challenges and unique opportunities the situation has presented.

Launching on Wednesday, June 24 at 11:30 EDT, the first installment of the monthly series will focus on the theme of Innovation Pivots and feature members of the Queen’s community who have effectively pivoted their research and programs to come up with creative and innovative solutions to the pandemic.

The open, free session, moderated by Jim Banting, Assistant Vice-Principal (Partnerships and Innovation), will take a deep dive into three initiatives that are working to confront various aspects of COVID-19:

  • The Mechanical Ventilator Milano initiative, an international project aimed at developing a low-cost, easy-to-build ventilator to treat COVID-19. The project has gained international media attention, and the Canadian arm of the collaboration is being led by Queen’s Nobel Laureate, Dr. Arthur B. McDonald. Represented by Dr. Tony Noble, Professor, Physics, Engineering Physics, and Astronomy, and Scientific Director, Arthur B. McDonald Canadian Astroparticle Physics Research Institute
  • The Hand Sanitizer Initiative mobilized by Queen’s researchers and industry partners to support Kingston hospitals. Represented by Ms. Emily Albright, PhD Candidate, Chemistry, and Dr. Richard Oleschuk, Professor, Chemistry

“We are excited to share, with our alumni and the greater Queen’s community, the important work that our researchers, students, and affiliates are doing in our fight to understand and confront the challenges associated with the pandemic,” says Karen Bertrand, Vice-Principal (Advancement).

The Conversations Confronting COVID-19 series is free and open to the public. To register for the event on Wednesday, June 24, please visit the Queen’s Alumni website. To learn more about the projects featured in the event, visit the Research@Queen’s website.

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