The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) has recently awarded a consortium of Canada’s mathematical sciences Institutes $666,667 to fight the global coronavirus pandemic.  The successful application to the Government of Canada’s 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Rapid Research Funding call was led by the Fields Institute, and partner institutes include AARMS, CRM, and PIMS.

This federal funding has been supplemented by an additional $90,000 support for AARMS from the New Brunswick Health Research Foundation (NBHRF).

The research will mobilize a national network of infectious disease multi-scale modellers to assess the transmission risk of COVID-19 and project outbreak trajectories. This will enable them to evaluate public health interventions for outbreak prevention and control, while informing public health policymakers in the development of effective treatment strategies.

Two Atlantic Canadian mathematical scientists have joined the Canadian COVID-19 Math Modelling Task Force: James Watmough from the University of New Brunswick, and the Director of AARMS Sanjeev Seahra.

“The objective of the CIHR-funded project centres on control of the spread of the infection through and between communities,” says Dr. Watmough. “Obvious short term objectives are understanding the main means of spread and the effectiveness of various strategies, such as school closures and physical distancing, in reducing the peak demand on our health care system.

“We will also be modelling treatment of individuals, what we call in-host modelling, to understand the disease and how treatment works. The holy grail of this project would be to test proposed treatments on simulated people. This is still a long way off, but we can use modelling to get more information out of trials.”

“The main goal of this research is to help public health authorities make informed decisions about how to manage the COVID-19 outbreak,” says Dr. Seahra. “Governments will have to make many hard decisions about how to combat this virus, and we would like to help them in any way we can. We will also be learning as much as we can about this emergency to ensure we are better prepared for future pandemics in Atlantic Canada.” 

Leah Carr, interim CEO of NBHRF, says “NBHRF is proud to support our New Brunswick researchers, Drs. Seahra and Watmough, in their significant contribution to this urgent issue.”

Other partner organization are the Public Health Agency of Canada, the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization-International Vaccine Centre and the National Research Council.

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