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From left: Visiting scientists Jason Kindrachuk (BSc'01, PhD'11) and Alyson Kelvin at VIDO-InterVac. (Photo: David Stobbe/University of Saskatchewan)

USask unites: Virologist discusses the realities of research amid COVID-19 pandemic

Since the first cases of COVID-19 were announced in the province, members of the USask community have come together to support one another in these uncertain times.

When it comes to developing a vaccine for COVID-19, a virus that has claimed more than 940,000 lives worldwide thus far, researchers, clinicians and public health experts from across the globe have dedicated themselves completely to looking for a solution to this global health threat.

No one knows this better than Dr. Jason Kindrachuk (BSc'01, PhD'11).

“For many of us, COVID-19 is all we think about day in, day out, and physical and mental fatigue is rampant,” writes Kindrachuk in an article recently published by Forbes.

Kindrachuk, an infectious disease expert and Canada Research Chair, is part of the leading-edge research team at the University of Saskatchewan’s (USask) Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization-International Vaccine Centre (VIDO-InterVac), working to collaboratively advance research and development against COVID-19.

An assistant professor with the University of Manitoba, Kindrachuk relocated from Winnipeg, to help support COVID-19 research efforts at VIDO-InterVac, where he completed his PhD in 2007.

Since arriving back to USask, he has been immersed in the all-important search for a vaccine.

“These are exhausting times on all fronts, including in the research laboratory where researchers have worked tirelessly since January to identify and characterize SARS-CoV-2 and identify the mechanisms underlying clinical illness,” writes Kindrachuk. “To put things in perspective, while we have been studying ebolaviruses for more than four decades, we are still learning how these viruses are able to cause such devastating disease and where they hide in nature.”

Read more on Kindrachuk’s work, the progress so far and the challenges that remain for researchers studying COVID-19 vaccines and treatments, in Forbes.

Having worked with “high consequence” pathogens (those with high mortality rates), including being the scientific lead for an Ebola diagnostic laboratory in Liberia, Kindrachuk joined visiting scientists at VIDO-InterVac who are working to better understand how SARS-CoV-2 causes disease. 

But when it comes to developing a vaccine for COVID-19, VIDO-InterVac is well-positioned to make a breakthrough that could save lives on a global scale. The lab has already been working on coronavirus vaccines, primarily for animals, for four decades. Today, the vaccine centre is one of only a few high-level containment facilities in the world able to conduct research on a vaccine for COVID-19.

“VIDO-InterVac is the centre of pandemic research in Canada,” said VIDO-InterVac Director and CEO Dr. Volker Gerdts (PhD). “We are privileged to host these Canadian experts to advance scientific knowledge and develop solutions as the world battles this pandemic.”

Share your stories with us: We are collecting the stories of resilience and good spirit from our USask community. Please send story ideas and photos to news@usask.ca.

As a community it is critical that we support each other and remain respectful during what is a difficult time for all of us. Please follow all guidelines and take all precautions to prevent the further spread of COVID-19 in our community.

How you can help our students during the COVID-19 pandemic:  https://alumni.usask.ca/news/2020/covid-19-how-you-can-help-our-students.php

For the latest developments and information about the University of Saskatchewan's response to COVID-19, please go to covid19.usask.ca/.

The University of Saskatchewan is undertaking critical research and contributing to global efforts to combat COVID-19. The University of Saskatchewan's Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization (VIDO-InterVac) is a world leader in developing vaccines and technologies to combat infectious diseases. Your support of the COVID-19 Research Fund supports the increased efforts of researchers at the University of Saskatchewan to develop vaccines and treatments for COVID-19. Donate now.

Article originally published at https://news.usask.ca.

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