Fight or Flight?

For Dr. Lauren Kelly, the answer is obvious

Our fight or flight response is inherent to us. How we respond to a crisis is a part of who we are as individuals. As our daily lives, families, businesses and livelihoods have been dramatically altered by the COVID-19 crisis, some people chose to stand up, get involved and make a difference.

Dr. Lauren Kelly was already leading a very busy life. As a scientist and the clinical trials director at the Children’s Hospital Research Institute of Manitoba (CHRIM)’s research support unit, she was studying the safe use of cannabis and opioids in children with health concerns, while raising a very active two-year-old with husband, Bruce. As COVID-19 took over, Dr. Kelly didn’t slow down for a moment as she also took on the challenge to find a remedy to the virus that was killing hundreds of thousands of people worldwide.

“I wanted to help and knew that my research skills and clinical trials expertise could be valuable in the race to find effective treatments for patients with COVID-19 here in Manitoba”


“COVID-19 hit us all close to home, and not just because we are now stuck there,” says Dr. Kelly. “I wanted to help and knew that my research skills and clinical trials expertise could be valuable in the race to find effective treatments for patients with COVID-19 here in Manitoba.”

Dr. Kelly is currently a co-investigator on two national clinical trials related to COVID-19. One is the Canadian Treatments for COVID-19 (CATCO) trial, which is the Canadian arm of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) global Solidarity trial. The Solidarity trial is aimed at finding the best possible treatment for the virus, and involves nearly 100 other countries, each simultaneously running studies in the race to find a cure. This trial is adaptive, meaning that it is built to study different drugs as evidence accumulates in this and other studies. They have already answered important questions about hydroxychloroquine and lopinavir/ritonavir, both of which were shown not to improve mortality in hospitalized patients with COVID-19. Currently, CATCO is the only study in Canada investigating remdesivir and is currently in the process of adding a combination a new intervention arm.

“CATCO is an amazing opportunity for our three Manitoba hospitals to participate in a global trial with more than 35 Canadian sites. The infrastructure, teamwork and efficiency means that we can offer our local hospitalized patients access to clinical trials with investigational products, such as remdesivir, which would not be available outside of the trial” says Dr. Kelly, who has been with CHRIM for three years.

The other clinical trial Dr. Kelly has underway is especially close to her heart as it seeks to provide evidence-based research on treatments in children with COVID-19. While the last thing anyone wants is to see kids get sick and enter this study, as the virus seems to be affecting them differently, these clinical trials can provide much-needed data on how to specifically treat infants and children moving forward. Without clinical trials in place, hospitalized children are not able to access potentially beneficial treatments. The CONCOR-Kids study is evaluating the safety and effectiveness of convalescent plasma, which is a blood product obtained from individuals who have recovered from COVID-19. The convalescent plasma study is supported by Canadian Blood Services, Heme Quebec, the C-17 Council and the Hospital for Sick Children with a commitment to equitably providing access to plasma in all provinces.

“As a clinical trialist, methods and operations are a skill I can bring to the table during a pandemic. There needs to be someone to lead much of the work that goes on behind the scenes to get clinical trials running, including training and managing operations. Utilizing my skills I can ensure the infectious disease physicians have as much time as possible for their patients and implementing in-hospital COVID-19 safety precautions,” says Dr. Kelly.

Dr. Kelly, like many others, is working from home with a toddler underfoot and a husband sharing office space, while she tackles one of the biggest questions of our generation – how to conquer COVID-19. In these less-than-ideal circumstances, she has never skipped a beat as she also continues her previous research work.

While no one can predict what will come next, Dr. Lauren Kelly is doing her best to search for the right tools to combat this virus, so we can all stop running from it and start fighting.