Quebec’s life sciences and research industries have been mobilizing in the fight against COVID-19
Research has shown its undeniable usefulness and strength throughout this pandemic. Quebec’s life sciences and research industries have come together to find solutions to this unprecedented health crisis. Quebec has leveraged its assets to accelerate discoveries and promising initiatives to fight the virus.
Although vaccines have been the primary focus, Quebec-based companies and researchers have worked on many other critical aspects of the battle against the virus, such as treatments, diagnostic tests, monitoring tools, and protective equipment. More than one vaccine and treatment will be needed to stop this persistent virus. Here is an overview of the advances made by our industry.
A COVID-19 Vaccine from Quebec
Vaccines attracted a lot of attention and were approved in record time. Vaccine development is still being done by Quebec companies such as Medicago (which has begun Phase III trials), IMV (which has completed preclinical studies), Ulysse Biotech (in development), and Glycovax Pharma (preclinical phase).
Researchers Are Concentrating on Finding New Treatments
As the pandemic spread, many companies and laboratories launched studies to find a treatment that would slow COVID-19’s progression and reduce its mortality rate. Here are a few examples:
Dalcor Pharmaceuticals recently began a Phase II study with dalcetrapib: this drug was initially designed to control cholesterol but could be used as an antiviral against COVID-19. The study is being conducted in conjunction with the Montreal Heart Institute, and results should be published in the spring of 2021. (Read more here)
Laurent Pharmaceuticals had been conducting studies on LAU-7b, an anti-inflammatory drug to treat cystic fibrosis. Since COVID-19 significantly affects the lungs, as cystic fibrosis does, the company launched a clinical study to evaluate the molecule’s effect on reducing the severity of COVID-19. The study is being done in Canada and the United States. (More information here)
Dapsone, an anti-inflammatory used to treat AIDS and lupus, is the subject of a large study initiated by Pulmonem in collaboration with researchers at McGill University. The team is looking to recruit more than 2,000 patients: the study’s results are expected to be published soon. (More information here)
Contract Research Organizations Are Participating in Large Studies
In an effort to find solutions to the pandemic, several Quebec research teams have redirected their focus to better understand the disease and study potential treatments. As a result, many clinical studies have been launched in Quebec. Various contract research organizations (CROs) within the province are participating in studies on COVID-19. Here are a few examples:
- Nexelis, a Laval-based analytical laboratory, is involved in many Phase III clinical trials of COVID-19 vaccines in several countries.
- Altascience is partnering with Roivant Sciences, an American company, on a Phase I clinical study on gimsilumab, an antibody that could work against COVID-19.
- Charles River Laboratories has implemented a comprehensive program to support studies on COVID-19.
- Corealis Pharma specializes in oral pharmaceutical formulations and is currently producing drug batches for six international studies.
Personal Protective Equipment
A crucial element in the fight against COVID-19 is protecting medical personnel from the virus. With the shortage of personal protective equipment at the beginning of the pandemic, several companies restructured their operations to increase the healthcare system’s supply of masks, visors, oxygenation equipment, etc.
The lack of personal protective equipment in the early stages of the pandemic was acute. The availability of N95 masks, recognized as providing better protection to wearers, was insufficient. In response to this shortage, Stryker‘s Quebec subsidiary obtained approval from Health Canada to sterilize N95 masks so that they could be reused and be more readily available. (Read more here)
Visors are also especially useful in ensuring the safety of workers and healthcare personnel. BodyCad delivered more than 250,000 visors to hospitals across Quebec. The company was able to do this by restructuring production processes and collaborating with various partners. It also innovated by contributing to developing the BeyondFit, a personalized mask, using its 3D printing machine. (Learn more here)
In addition, BD (Becton, Dickinson and Company) is contributing its expertise to the fight against COVID-19 by supplying the Canadian government with 75 million injection devices (including 190 million needles and syringes). Another of the company’s contributions is its BD MAX® system: used for COVID-19 screening, it provides results in as little as two to three hours. (More information here)