Research in Action

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New COVID-19 studies to shed light on disease, treatments and fostering mental health.
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The funded projects are being led by (L-R) Drs. Angela Cheung and Margaret Herridge (co-leads), Jordan Feld and Rima Styra.

Three UHN research projects are being acknowledged as being ‘high impact’ for their potential to contribute to improving the response to COVID-19.

These projects are being funded through the $8.4M Toronto COVID-19 Action Fund, from the University of Toronto. The initiative has supported a total of 31 projects for their ability to address the pandemic and get results within a year.

As described below, these research projects will explore new insights into disease, test new treatments and help support the wellbeing of front-line medical workers.

The Ontario COVID-19 Prospective Cohort Study
Angela Cheung and Margaret Herridge, Senior Scientists at UHN’s Toronto General Hospital Research Institute (TGHRI) and Professors of Medicine at University of Toronto
Project description: A large-scale study that brings together over 25 researchers from other institutions to conduct five complementary projects. These projects will reveal how treatment approaches, patient genetics, sociodemographics and clinical risk factors affect outcomes of the disease. Data will be collected in the short and longer term from patients and their caregivers—up to one year after patients are released from the hospital. The findings will enable the researchers to identify those who are at increased risk for severe symptoms and long-term health effects. The findings will also help to inform large-scale public health planning, clinical care, and ongoing resource needs required to combat the virus.

Interferon Lambda for Immediate Antiviral Therapy at Diagnosis
Jordan Feld, Senior Scientist at UHN’s TGHRI, and Associate Professor of Medicine at the University of Toronto
Project description: A clinical trial that will test whether a drug—known as peginterferon lambda—affects the ability of individuals with mild to moderate COVID-19 to clear the virus. The drug acts in the body by promoting the immune system’s antiviral response. It has been shown to be safe for use in humans, and has been used to treat other viral diseases, such as hepatitis C and B. If successful, the drug could help to shorten the time during which individuals are infected, therefore helping to limit spread of the virus. While the trial will initially focus on patients that are well enough to recover at home, in the future it could be expanded to test the ability of the drug to prevent disease progression in those with severe symptoms.

Mental Health Outcomes in Healthcare Workers during COVID-19
Rima Styra, Affiliate Scientist at UHN’s TGHRI and Associate Professor at the University of Toronto
Project description: A study to explore the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on front-line health care workers. Specifically, it will look at the factors that place these workers at risk for negative impacts on psychological wellness, morale and ability to cope. By shedding light on how the current pandemic is affecting health care workers, this study will enable the health care community to develop targeted support to those who need it the most.

Dr. Wouters, UHN’s EVP of Science and Research comments, “We are excited to partner with the University of Toronto on this timely initiative. These projects illustrate the breadth of UHN experts—researchers and clinicians—that are working together to address this global pandemic.”