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Putting Alberta on the front lines fighting COVID-19 (video)

Provincial Press Release September 28, 2020 @ 12:47 PM published at 4:28 PM

Seven Alberta-based researchers are receiving funding for innovative technology projects that will help fight COVID-19.

The seven projects – which will research topics like antibody detection and the real-life experiences of patients and caregivers – will split $2.1 million in funding from Alberta Innovates. A panel of provincial partners, including experts from Alberta Innovates, Alberta Health and Alberta Health Services, chose these projects based on their potential to improve Albertans’ safety against COVID-19. Five of the chosen projects will be at the University of Alberta and two will be at the University of Calgary.

“Alberta is home to innovative thinkers, world-class researchers and exceptional problem solvers. In our response to COVID-19, Albertans are once again demonstrating that the skills and technology exist right here in our province to tackle any challenge. We are proud to support these Alberta-based projects that are finding new ways to understand and combat the spread of COVID-19.” Doug Schweitzer, Minister of Jobs, Economy and Innovation

As highlighted in the province’s Investment and Growth Strategy, Alberta is already a recognized leader in post-secondary research for a number of sectors – including health sciences – and is one of Canada’s three major artificial intelligence hubs. Investments like this one will help Alberta’s government continue to grow our health sciences sector and get our new technologies to market.

“Our post-secondary institutions have the people, knowledge and expertise to take on the challenges of this pandemic. From potential short-term solutions and assistance, to gaining greater understanding of the longer term impacts of COVID-19, Alberta is taking a leading role and further establishing our province as a global leader in health research.” Demetrios Nicolaides, Minister of Advanced Education

“COVID-19 has highlighted the connection between health and economic wellbeing, as well as the ways in which both are lifted through research and innovation. Alberta Innovates brings together the best ideas and the brightest minds to accelerate solutions to challenges like the pandemic. These additional seven projects are driving innovative solutions to improve outcomes around prevention, detection, care and recovery for Albertans.” Laura Kilcrease, CEO, Alberta Innovates

“Providing innovative solutions to the challenges we face as a province is core to what we do at the University of Alberta. This critical funding from the Government of Alberta and Alberta Innovates will help our researchers carry out their work in the rapid detection, management, and reduction of the transmission of COVID-19. Thank you to Ministers Schweitzer and Nicolaides for their leadership in supporting this important research.” Bill Flanagan, president and vice-chancellor, University of Alberta

“Vital funding from Alberta Innovates will help UCalgary play a key role in partnership and collaboration with other post-secondary institutions to be a part of the solution to address global health challenges due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Our researchers have been actively working to accelerate the development, testing and implementation of countermeasures to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, and its consequences on people and communities.” Ed McCauley, president, University of Calgary

Alberta Innovates Alberta Innovates is an arms-length government agency that reports to the Minister of Jobs, Economy and Innovation. Alberta Innovates invests in research, innovation and entrepreneurship to drive provincial economic growth and diversity. The agency works with researchers, industry and entrepreneurs to move Alberta to a lower-carbon future, enhance the responsible use of land and water, and contribute to the improved health and well-being of Albertans. 

Alberta Innovates provides technical expertise, entrepreneurial advice and support, opportunities for partnerships, and funding to advance the best ideas. It supports a broad range of research and innovation activity – from discovery to use. Collaboration is at the heart of what Alberta Innovates does – bringing together bright minds and great ideas to drive innovation. 

Investment and Growth Strategy The Investment and Growth Strategy is part of Alberta’s Recovery Plan – an ambitious long-term strategy to build, diversify, and create tens of thousands of jobs, now. By building schools, roads, and other core infrastructure, we are benefiting our communities by putting Albertans back to work. By diversifying our economy and attracting investment with Canada’s most competitive tax environment, we are putting Alberta on a path for economic growth. Alberta came together to save lives by flattening the COVID-19 curve and now we must do the same to save livelihoods, grow back our businesses, and thrive as a province.

Quick facts

  • Seven projects totalling $2.1 million were selected to receive funding:

    • Jie Chen at the University of Alberta received $304,200 for the development and clinical validation of a rapid COVID-19 antibody detection device.

    • Andrei Drabovich at the University of Alberta received $182,098 for design and standardization of serology testing.

    • Matthias Hoben at the University of Alberta received $328,376 to study the experiences and support needs of COVID-19 caregivers at assisted living facilities.

    • Jia Hu at the University of Calgary received $392,080 to study how COVID-19 has changed behaviours through a targeted marketing campaign.

    • Mark Lewis at the University of Alberta received $220,545 (supported through Alberta Health’s Pfizer Alberta Collaboration) to research predicting and managing COVID-19’s pandemic dynamics using machine learning.

    • Ken Parhar at the University of Calgary received $362,285 to evaluate how lying in prone position (flat with the chest down) may treat acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) in COVID-19 patients.

    • Puneeta Tandon at the University of Alberta received $326,297 to study appropriately connecting vulnerable outpatients with multidisciplinary care once released from hospital.


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