Our Centre is responding to the global COVID-19 pandemic by utilizing our expertise, facilities and capabilities to find a therapeutic treatment and to find a vaccine. In addition, one of our Centre’s associates is spearheading a project to design and produce novel low-cost ventilators and other respiratory support equipment through open source design solutions.
Therapeutic discovery and development
Led by Dr. Art Cherkasov, VPC and UBC scientists have joined forces with experts around the world including collaborations with Cambridge in the UK, Memorial Sloan-Kettering in New York, University of North Carolina Pharma Science, and Enamine, the biggest small molecule supplier in the world, in the Ukraine to find an antiviral therapeutic treatment. This work is being funded through a CIHR grant and generous donations from Telus and Teck Resources. In June 2020, an international consortium of researchers led by Dr. Cherkasov and Dr. François Jean, Associate Professor in UBC’s Faculty of Science, Department of Microbiology and Immunology, received CIHR funding to identify antiviral drugs that can work synergistically with antiviral therapy Remdesivir to boost its effectiveness. In November 2020, Dr. Cherkasov was co-PI on two CFI Exceptional Opportunity Funds to purchase urgently needed research infrastructure.
By utilizing an existing artificial intelligence-augmented technology called “Deep Docking”, Dr. Cherkasov’s group has quickly scanned 1.3 billion known chemical compounds and, through a process of elimination, has arrived at a shortlist of the top 100 candidate protease inhibitors that could lead to an antiviral therapeutic treatment. The technology allowed this work to take weeks, rather than years. These in silico results will proceed through our Centre’s well-established translational research pipeline, in collaboration with multiple labs around the world, to accelerate promising therapeutics from bench to bedside.
COVID-19 vaccine initiative
The laboratory of Dr. Wilf Jefferies is working to create high-performance vaccines for the COVID-19 virus. By utilizing strategies developed for finding vaccines for West Nile Virus, Influenza A and cancer, this project aims to produce high-performance vaccines for COVID-19 virus. These advanced University of British Columbia COVID-19 vaccine technologies have the potential to overcome an obstacle in vaccine development by reducing quantities of COVID-19 vaccine per dose and thus potentially reducing the amount of the vaccine need to be produced to vaccinate a large population, thereby saving time and reducing manufacturing costs. This project will test and deliver a candidate COVID-19 vaccine and other clinical tools to address current societal needs. If these vaccines are successful, they will be produced safely and efficiently and then mass distributed, at a reasonable cost, and with acceptable shelf-life.
Initial funding for this research is via a grant from the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research, and Dr. Jefferies is applying for grants to further develop this work. Tax-deductable donations to support this work can be made by cheque, credit card or Paypal via The Sullivan Urology Foundation.
On December 2, 2020, Eyam Vaccines and Immunotherapeutics reached an agreement with UBC to license several COVID-19 self-amplifying mRNA vaccine candidates developed by Dr. Jefferies. In an April 2021 news release, Eyam Vaccines and Immunotherapeutics stated that they have started preclinical studies on the efficacy of unique COVID-19 vaccine candidates that target SARS-CoV-2 variants.
COSMIC Medical - formerly UBC Sprint Open Source Emergency Ventilator Project (SOS e-Vent)
Dr. Christopher Nguan, director of the Surgical Technologies Experimental Laboratory and Advanced Robotics (STELLAR) facility at UBC, Associate Professor in the Department of Urologics Sciences, and a VPC Associate, created and co-leads the Collective Open Source Medical Innovations for COVID-19 (COSMIC Medical). This project is a collaboration doctors, engineers and students working to create abundant access to medical equipment in BC and around the world through open source design solutions. It started as UBC SOS e-Vent, working to produce novel low-cost ventilators and other respiratory support equipment that can be produced quickly from readily available materials. Dr. Nguan discussed this work on Global TV (video) on March 30, 2020. Dr. Nguan and his team were one of 11 awardees (of 840 applicants) of the April 2020 Roche Canada COVID-19 Open Innovation Challenge, for their project to further develop the gVent.
Updated April 16, 2021