Updates from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) on COVID-19 funding and improving clinical trials
COVID-19 funding updates
Since February 2020, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) has continuously developed a suite of new funding opportunities to support COVID-19 research. Through these funding opportunities, CIHR has awarded 965 grants, representing a $414.8 million investment from the Government of Canada and its partners for COVID-19 research on a breadth of topics ranging from diagnostic and therapeutic development to equitable public health policy.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve, the Government of Canada’s ongoing strategic investments in research continue to support emerging issues in pandemic response, such as pediatric health and outpatient anti-viral treatment, while also shifting to pandemic recovery. As part of these ongoing investments, in April 2022, CIHR awarded $6.7 million through the Canadian Pediatric COVID-19 Research Platform competition to support a coordinated system to monitor the health and well-being of children and youth as it relates to COVID-19 infection and vaccination consequences.
The funded initiative, the Pediatric Outcome imProvement through COordination of Research Networks (POPCORN), aims to establish a unified Canadian research structure capable of comprehensively addressing important child health concerns beginning with COVID-19.
The Government of Canada made significant investments in purchasing COVID-19 therapeutics However, as access to these emerging antiviral medications has become more widely available, there is a pressing need to understand the outcomes and practical challenges in the outpatient setting, including effectiveness, comparative effectiveness, and cost effectiveness. To address this knowledge gap, CIHR has collaborated with Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) to launch the COVID-19 Outpatient Therapeutic Studies funding opportunity. The funding opportunity will provide up to $10 million to support an adaptive platform trial administering therapeutics for COVID-19 to non-hospitalized patients in Canadian health care settings using well-structured studies and well-defined outcome measures. Applications were received in May 2022.
The United Nations (UN) Research Roadmap for the COVID-19 Recovery, launched in November 2020, encourages “targeted research for data-driven responses that focus particularly on the needs of people being left behind.” The Roadmap highlights that innovative and interdisciplinary solutions are needed to account for the interdependence of people and recovery efforts. To address this need for interdisciplinary and innovative research, CIHR is supporting the Canada Research Coordinating Committee’s launch of the New Frontiers in Research Fund (NFRF) Special Call: Research for Post-Pandemic Recovery. The call aims to mobilize Canadian-led research efforts in support of a more equitable, sustainable, and resilient post-pandemic reality and will support a diverse portfolio of projects that directly address one or more of the research priorities outlined in the UN Research Roadmap for COVID-19 Recovery. Currently, $24 million has been committed to support two-year grants valued at up to $500,000 each. Projects are expected to be interdisciplinary and have an international dimension, with inclusion of team members from lower-middle- or lower-income countries being strongly encouraged. Applications are due in August 2022, and results are expected in January 2023.
Preparing for the future with improved clinical trials
The Government of Canada has committed to supporting international efforts for improved clinical trial collaboration and cooperation to respond to future health emergencies as a signatory to the G7 Therapeutics and Vaccines Clinical Trials Charter. In line with this commitment, the Government of Canada has made a $250 million investment over three years for CIHR to increase clinical research capacity through a new Clinical Trials Fund (CTF). The goal of the CTF is to establish the foundation for a sustainable clinical trials ecosystem in Canada that will generate scientific evidence to contribute to the development of new scientifically proven interventions, treatments, and cures to improve health outcomes for Canadians. The fund will also support and advance Canada’s Biomanufacturing and Life Sciences Strategy. The CTF will provide funding through three specific streams: 1) the Pan-Canadian Clinical Trials Consortium to support platforms for improved coordination of clinical trials; 2) Clinical Trials Training Platforms aimed at developing people with the required skills to successfully conceive, design, implement, and disseminated results from clinical trials; and 3) Clinical Trials Projects to support the clinical trials pipeline from discovery to implementation.
- CIHR COVID-19 Investments: By the numbers
- COVID-19 Outpatient Therapeutic Studies
- Research for Post-Pandemic Recovery
- UN Research Roadmap for the COVID-19 Recovery
- Centre for Research on Pandemic Preparedness and Health Emergencies
- Clinical Trials Fund
- G7 Therapeutics and Vaccines Clinical Trials Charter
- Canada’s Biomanufacturing and Life Sciences Strategy