Local Scientists at Forefront of COVID-19 Research

CHRIM investigators awarded prestigious CIHR funding to understand impact of COVID-19

Children’s Hospital Research Institute of Manitoba (CHRIM) is pleased to announce four researchers have received funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) as part of a $109 million investment to address the health challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In today’s funding announcement, CIHR awarded 139 researchers from across Canada to support the rapid and timely research responses needed to slow down and stop the spread of the COVID-19.

Dr. Meghan Azad, research scientist at the Institute and an associate professor and Canada Research Chair in Developmental Origins of Chronic Disease at the University of Manitoba, is Manitoba co-lead of the CHILD Cohort Study (CHILD) that received $1.7 million to study the impact COVID-19 is having on families.

The CHILD Study involves nearly 3500 families residing in Manitoba, British Columbia, Alberta, and Ontario who have been followed since before their birth and are now between the ages of eight and 11 years of age.

Through home visits, questionnaires and clinical assessments tracking the children as they grow, CHILD has acquired an unprecedented pool of biological samples, such as stool, blood and breastmilk, as well as lifestyle, health, environmental and other information from participating family members. This study is one of the few cohorts that had collected biosamples and psychosocial data just before the pandemic and because of this, is able to study how pre-pandemic health and immune status influences the risk and outcome of the coronavirus infection.

“Canadians have been profoundly impacted by COVID-19 and the public health measures put into place to reduce community spread of the virus,” comments Dr. Azad. “Our project will study why some people infected with the virus become seriously ill, while others do not, and will help us identify risk factors for infection. We will also look at how physical distancing and school and business closures have affected mental health and wellbeing, especially in children. These are urgent questions that must be answered quickly to help control subsequent waves of transmission and minimize the unintended consequences of pandemic management policies.”

Dr. Terry Klassen, CEO and Scientific Director at the Children’s Hospital Research Institute of Manitoba and Professor in the Department of Pediatrics & Child Health at the University of Manitoba, is part of a group of international pediatric emergency medicine clinicians and researchers who are researching the effects of COVID-19 in children.

Dr. Klassen is working with Principal Investigator, Dr. Stephen Freedman, a pediatric emergency medicine physician with Alberta Health Services and clinician-scientist in the Cumming School of Medicine’s (CSM) Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute (ACHRI) and O’Brien Institute for Public Health.

Their study that was awarded $450,000 aims to gain an understanding of how likely asymptomatic-infected children are to transmit the infection to other children and adults – a crucial question that needs to be answered prior to student’s returning to regular classroom settings.

To collect the information needed, children who are in need of care due to non-infectious reasons, for example a fall, cut, or injury, will be recruited from one of 20 emergency departments across Canada and the United States that are involved.

These sites are participating in the CIHR-funded, 57-site, Pediatric Emergency Research Network (PERN)-COVID-19 study, and are currently perform screening of select asymptomatic children for SARS-CoV-2.

Data will be collected regarding exposures and symptoms when first recruited to the study and then again at 14 days for enrolled children (infected and uninfected) along with their household members. Household members who develop symptoms of COVID-19 will be encouraged to be tested for the virus at that time.

Dr. Kevin Coombs, research scientist at CHRIM and Professor in the Department of Medical Microbiology at the University of Manitoba was funded $$790,162 to lead a multi-institutional consortium using a powerful novel tool, called SOMAscan, and next-generation sequencing, to rapidly determine how COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus) – and a variety of other coronaviruses – affect large numbers of genes and proteins in different human lung cells, the normal target of the COVID-19 virus.



Dr. Nathan Nickel, research scientist at CHRIM and Assistant Professor in Department of Community Health Sciences at the University of Manitoba was awarded $317, 917 to examine who is currently being tested for COVID-19 in First Nations, Métis and Inuit Canadians populations, where high rates of chronic illnesses like heart disease and lung disease are already prevalent. This project will work in partnership with the First Nations Health and Social Secretariat, the Manitoba Metis Federation and the Manitoba Inuit Association with data collected in Manitoba being used as a sample for the rest of Canada.

Today’s funding announcement was made by the Honourable Patty Hajdu, Canada’s Minister of Health, as part of a $109 million investment by CIHR and provincial partners to mobilize science to fight COVID-19.


“Accelerating high-quality research and real-time evidence is a priority for Canada in its fight against COVID-19. I congratulate the successful teams for their essential work aimed at better preventing, detecting and treating COVID-19 at the individual and population levels. Our government believes that it’s through collaboration and data sharing that we will respond efficiently to this global health emergency.”


The Honourable Patty Hajdu, Minister of Health


CHRIM is the research division of the Children’s Hospital Foundation of Manitoba, which supports research into childhood diseases, including the impact of COVID-19 on the health and well-being of kids and their families.

“The importance of research and its impact on children’s health has never been more on the minds of families everywhere,” said Stefano Grande, president and CEO of Children’s Hospital Foundation of Manitoba. “These studies will have profound impact on understanding this disease. Manitobans can be proud of this work being done right here in our province.”

To support CHRIM and research into diseases like COVID-19, visit www.goodbear.ca