Ryerson teams to research new ways of diagnosing and treating COVID-19
Two Ryerson research teams have secured funding from the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) to help them find new ways of diagnosing and treating COVID-19.
A group led by professor Costin Antonescu of the Department of Chemistry and Biology is working to identify proteins in human cells that can be targeted with drugs, and to discover existing drugs that may be suitable for repurposing as COVID-19 treatments.
Professor Krishnan Venkatakrishnan of the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering is leading the development of technology that will provide rapid diagnosis of the disease.
The projects have each received $200,000 from the CFI’s Exceptional Opportunities Fund, which enables Canadian research teams to acquire urgently needed equipment and infrastructure.
“We acknowledge the CFI and federal government for making the funds available to ensure that our researchers who are tackling the challenges of COVID-19 have the required infrastructure and access to the cutting-edge tools to undertake this critical work,” said Steven N. Liss, vice-president, research and innovation at Ryerson. “The projects led by professors Antonescu and Venkatakrishnan will help to unlock new knowledge and techniques that can be applied to this emergency around the world, and I congratulate our teams on securing this important support from the CFI.”
How the researchers are helping to tackle COVID-19
Professor Antonescu’s team includes professors Roberto Botelho, Michael Olson and Sarah Sabatinos from the Department of Chemistry and Biology, and professor Raffi Karshafian from the Department of Physics.
The team says that there is an urgent, global need to develop drug-based therapies that can dampen the spread of COVID-19 and treat severe symptoms. To help achieve this, the researchers will analyze proteins within human cells that are essential for the life cycle of the virus. This will enable them to identify which of these proteins can be targeted with drugs to suppress infection. The team will then use artificial intelligence to find existing drugs that may be good candidates for COVID-19 treatments. Thanks to the CFI funding, the team will acquire an automated microscope system, which is required for this painstaking work.
Professor Venkatakrishnan is working with professors Bo Tan and Feng Feng (Jeff) Xi from the Department of Aerospace Engineering, professor Sri Krishnan from the Department of Electrical, Computer, and Biomedical Engineering, and professor Gagan Gupta from the Department of Chemistry and Biology.
The team is developing a technique that will provide rapid COVID-19 diagnosis. They will develop tiny nanosensors that can be used in devices of different types to detect the virus or its associated antibodies. Applications include diagnostic tools for screening the general public, aircraft cabin air-monitoring systems, smart personal protective equipment (PPE) for front-line professionals and self-monitoring kits for use at home.
Through the Exceptional Opportunities Fund, the CFI is providing $28 million in support to 79 projects at 52 universities and research hospitals, colleges, polytechnics and Cégeps across Canada. The funding was announced, external link, opens in new window on November 6, 2020 by Navdeep Bains, the federal government’s Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry.