VIDO scientists receive CIHR funding to support research on high impact infectious diseases

Feb 29, 2024

New awards from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Project Grant from the Fall 2023 competition will support VIDO scientists as they try to solve highly pathogenic coronaviruses, tuberculosis, and influenza. The research will take place in VIDO’s high-containment facility, one of the largest and most advanced facilities in the world.

Funded projects:

Characterizing bat interferon stimulated genes as novel next generation therapy against highly pathogenic coronaviruses – Dr. Arinjay Banerjee

Bats are being increasingly recognized as reservoirs of emerging viruses in humans. Dr. Banerjee’s team will determine how bats control virus infections to help identify new ways to control virus infections in humans. For the project, Banerjee will work with collaborators from the University of Toronto, Friedrich-Loeffler-Institut, McMaster University, and the University of Waterloo.

Investigating the role of SARS-CoV-2 and MERS-CoV transcription regulatory sequence (TRS) in viral gene expression and virulence – Dr. Arinjay Banerjee

Two recently emerged coronaviruses—severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) and Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV)—have either caused a pandemic or are listed as a pandemic threat (respectively). Dr. Banerjee will investigate molecular properties in SARS-CoV-2 and MERS-CoV to understand how they cause a range of mild to severe disease in humans—and why MERS-CoV is more lethal. Collaborators on this project are from the University of Saskatchewan’s (USask) College of Medicine.

Characterizing the novel virulence functions of Mycobacterium tuberculosis type-7 secretion system ESX-1 effectors – Dr. Jeffrey Chen

Tuberculosis (TB) is a highly contagious airborne disease that sickens and kills millions of people worldwide. Better anti-TB vaccines and drugs are urgently needed. Dr. Chen’s team will complete work at the molecular level to understand how a major virulence factor contributes to TB disease in an infected host—information that will inform the development novel anti-TB vaccines and drugs. Co-investigators on the project are scientists from the University of British Columbia and VIDO (Dr. Neeraj Dhar).

Role of phenotypic heterogeneity in mycobacterial persistence to antibiotics: Prospects for more effective treatment regimens – Dr. Neeraj Dhar

A significant barrier to TB control and eradication is the prolonged treatment regimen that can lead to non-compliance, treatment failure, and development of drug resistance. Dr. Dhar’s team is studying the diversity of “persisting” subpopulations of TB bacteria to inform the design of faster and more effective therapeutic regimens. VIDO’s Dr. Jeffrey Chen is collaborating on this project.

Unraveling the Evolution of COVID-19: The Impact of Variant Mutations and ORF8 on Virus Replication and Pathogenesis to Enhance Pandemic Preparedness – Dr. Darryl Falzarano (co-investigator)

Dr. Falzarano is a co-investigator on a project led by Dr. Joyce Wilson from USask’s College of Medicine. Wilson’s project focuses on understanding differences in the non-spike protein mutations between SARS-CoV-2 delta and omicron variants by investigating the impact on virus growth, immune evasion, and disease progression.

Regulation of RIG-I mediated antiviral response upon influenza A virus infection – Dr. Yan Zhou

Influenza A viruses are important human and animal pathogens. A cellular protein sensor (called retinoic acid inducible gene-I (RIG-I)) is essential for recognizing influenza virus infections. Dr. Zhou’s project will focus on RIG-I signaling and how this sensor is activated by influenza viruses and mounts antiviral immune responses. This study will provide insights for the development of novel therapeutics.

 Click to read more about the recent USask funding from CIHR.