Researchers from Dalhousie University and Nova Scotia Health Authority receive $1.1 million in funding from Government of Canada to study COVID-19

HALIFAX, NS (June 25, 2020)  Researchers from Dalhousie University and the Nova Scotia Health Authority are leading projects which received a $1.1 million investment from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and Research Nova Scotia as part of a May 2020 Rapid Research Funding Opportunity.

The funding opportunity is a partnership between the CIHR, the International Development Research Centre (IRDC), the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research, Alberta Innovates, the Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation, Research Manitoba, the New Brunswick Health Research Foundation, and Research Nova Scotia (RNS). It is supporting clinical trials, observational studies, implementation science and other relevant study designs to scale-up promising existing projects, reorient current research, and initiate new rapid response research to address COVID-19 in the identified research areas that include understanding the safety, efficacy, effectiveness, ethics and implementation of:

  • Vaccines, diagnostics, or therapeutics;
  • Clinical management and health system interventions; and
  • Social, policy, and public health responses and related indirect consequences

The announcement was made today, Thursday, June 25, 2020 by the Honourable Patty Hajdu, Minister of Health. A total of $109 million was invested in 139 research teams.

Highlights of successfully funded projects:

Dr. Emily Marshall
PUPPY Study – Problems Coordinating and Accessing Primary Care for Attached and Unattached Patients Exacerbated During the COVID-19 Pandemic Year: A Longitudinal Mixed Methods Study with Rapid Reporting and Planning for the Road Ahead

COVID-19 has caused significant changes in primary care. In Canada, many walk-in clinics and family practices have closed. Pharmacies remain open but with restrictions on patient interactions. Other major changes in care (e.g., virtual care, reduced referrals) have been made to respect public health and emergency orders. During these times with significant restrictions, patients can be unclear or unaware of how to get the right care, at the right time, from the right provider.

Understanding the rapid changes in primary care and how to navigate these is challenging for everyone, but more so for people without a regular primary care provider to help guide them. The proposed study builds on existing research with an experienced team. The team will work to understand critical gaps in primary care access and coordination by comparing data from before, during, and after the pandemic. Multiple sources of data will be used such as policy makers, primary care providers, patients, waitlist data, healthcare billings, and prescribing data. The results are critical for strengthening primary care during and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic

Dr. Rudolf Uher
Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Canadians living with mental illness, and their children

Deterioration of mental health may be the most serious consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic. Social isolation, reduced activity, lack of opportunities, unemployment and financial uncertainty are known triggers of depressive episodes and suicides. Those living with pre-existing mental illness, and their children, may be among the most vulnerable to the indirect consequences of the pandemic.

The healthy development of children depends on the health of their parents and children of parents with serious forms of mental illness are at increased risk of adverse outcomes. Now, with closed schools and reduced access to external resources, the wellbeing of children may be linked to the mental health of their parents even more tightly than before. This project will examine the exposure, coping and impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in over 1000 adults and children from 300 families, including 200 families where one or both parents are living with mental illness. Their findings will be used to inform public health strategies and mental health service provision and make them sensitive to the needs of families, including those where parents are living with mental illness.

Research Nova Scotia is providing support to other regional researchers who are working on a project led by the University of Alberta. Dr. Roy Duncan, Dr. Scott Halperin and Dr. Alyson Kelvin from Dalhousie University will rapidly develop, validate and clinically evaluate a novel DNA vaccine against COVID-19. Clinical trials will be initiated at the Canadian center for Vaccinology in Halifax within 8 weeks of project initiation, with the goal of a commercial release within one year.


“Research Nova Scotia was excited to partner with CIHR, IDRC, and other provincial funders to support regional COVID researchers working across the country. It is important that we support our researchers on these large-scale, national projects.”

– Stefan Leslie, CEO of Research Nova Scotia

“We are very proud to have researchers from Dalhousie University continue to play a key role in the global response to the COVID-19 outbreak. The evidence they are building through their innovative work will aid in the design of economic and social policies and interventions that will help mitigate the significant impact of this pandemic.”

 – Dr. Alice Aiken, Vice President Research and Innovation at Dalhousie University

“This funding announcement speaks to the excellence of our Nova Scotian researchers who have worked tirelessly to improve health care in the face of unprecedented challenges. I am confident the work of Drs Marshall and Uher will shape our understanding of COVID-19 as we continue to take a leading role in our national response.”

Dr. Gail Tomblin Murphy, Vice President, Research, Innovation & Discovery and CNE at NSHA


Media contacts:

Michele Charlton
Communications Advisor, Office of the Vice President Research and Innovation
Dalhousie University
Phone: (902) 222-2817

Stephanie Reid
Director, Marketing and Communications
Research Nova Scotia
Phone: (902) 223-9450

Carla Adams
Senior Communications Advisor
Nova Scotia Health Authority