A Sinai Health infectious disease researcher will study how the novel coronavirus spreads, as part of $27 million in federal funding for COVID-19 research announced Friday.

Dr. Allison McGeer, senior clinician scientist at Sinai Health’s Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute, was awarded $493,000 from the federal government and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

McGeer and her team will study how long it takes infected patients to shed the virus and whether it persists on surfaces and in the air around patients.

“This virus is still very new and we need to learn a lot – and very quickly – to best protect our patients and to keep our hospitals safe,” McGeer said. “This funding will enable us to collect data to inform infection-prevention practice, and to determine risk factors and outcomes associated with this infection in Canada and around the world.”

McGeer, an infectious disease expert who was on the frontlines of the 2003 SARS outbreak, will collect clinical and epidemiologic information about COVID-19 in Toronto and Peel region to be shared with a global network of researchers.

They will also collect samples containing the virus in order to create a biobank that can be shared with investigators developing diagnostic tests, vaccines and treatments.

The federal government launched a rapid research funding competition in early February. Instead of a typical eight-month cycle from launch of a competition to funding, CIHR mobilized resources and completed the process quickly.

“For the Canadian research community – funding agencies, administrators, and researchers – to pull together to build a research agenda in two months is a remarkable achievement,” said McGeer. “This program ensures that Canada is making a significant contribution to the global response to this public health emergency.”

The investment will support 47 research teams from across the country that will focus on accelerating the development, testing, and implementation of measures to mitigate the novel coronavirus outbreak.

The Government of Canada is providing the funding for this research through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), the Canada Research Coordinating Committee (CRCC) through the New Frontiers in Research Fund (NFRF), the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), and Genome Canada (GC).

* The COVID-19 outbreak is an evolving situation and information is changing rapidly. The information in this article is current as of March 6, 2020.