New Brunswick researchers rise to the
challenge of COVID-19

Laura Richard

Dr. Laura Richard

Director of Research

Official public media release can be found here.

COVID-19 presents a clear and ongoing threat to the global community: how to manage this pandemic, and the ones that will surely follow it is an enormous challenge with no clear solution. New Brunswick’s researchers wanted to step up to find answers to this challenge and the unprecedented and interconnected health, economic and social issues this virus has created. We knew that NBIF could empower those researchers in tackling this challenge by providing; financial support, resources, and connections, and so, we mobilized our team in early March to start looking at what we could do.

In two short weeks working with our colleagues at the New Brunswick Health Research Foundation (NBHRF), we developed and launched our COVID-19 Research Fund. This fund enables researchers to explore new ways to detect and treat COVID-19, assess its effects on people, communities, and the economy. It’s critical work; the innovations around new treatments, models, and societal issues is our best way out of this crisis.

The response from New Brunswick’s research community was heartening. Rather than shrink from the massive, global challenges created by this novel coronavirus, they rose to the opportunity in droves. Applications poured in, 60 to be exact, requesting $2.3 million in funding. It quickly became apparent that the original amount we had budgeted for this new program would not be enough to fund the many worthy research projects. 

We reached out to the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) to seek additional funding, and they responded. Thanks to ACOA, we were able to provide funding to more qualified research projects. In total, 27 separate projects across universities in the province, NBCC and Horizon Health, have been approved for funding for a total of $846,707. For the full list of projects funded click here.

The variety of research projects submitted and approved speaks to the depth of research that takes place here in our provinces, universities, colleges, and research institutions. We have researchers directly tackling how to diagnose COVID-19 infections, mitigate the spread of the virus, explore public health communication practices, educational reforms, community resiliency, heart health outcomes, alcohol consumption, and the psychosocial impact of COVID-19 on New Brunswickers.

Bear in mind, most of these researchers are not epidemiologists. They are facing the same struggles as other Canadians, with shuttered offices and labs, financial burdens, and fears for their family’s health. Yet they still stepped up to shoulder an additional burden willingly and do their part to fight this pandemic. That’s inspiring. 

For a small province, we are punching well above our weight when it comes to assessing the health, social, educational, and economic consequences of this historic pandemic. It makes me proud as a New Brunswicker, and as an active supporter of New Brunswick’s research community. With COVID-19, the world has changed, perhaps forever. We need fresh thinking, and New Brunswick’s researchers are leading the way. With the breadth of innovative research projects that are now underway in our province, I feel confident that New Brunswick will be stepping out of this pandemic with a strong understanding of how it affected our lives and a plan for what we can do better in the future.

I am also proud of our team and NBHRF for the speed in which we brought this new fund to life, and the collaboration it required. We all recognized the urgency of providing funding to empower New Brunswick’s researchers to address the multitude of issues COVID-19 has raised. I can’t recall any other fund being created and launched in such a short time.

And then APPTA, a partnership between AGE-WELL NCE, Canada’s aging and technology network, and the NBHRF, came aboard with a commitment to spread awareness of this research to crucial audiences across Canada and to help researchers positively influence the public policy environment.

COVID-19 has brought wrenching heartache to individuals and families who died or were sickened by the virus, social and economic consequences, and the virtual lockdown of many economies. It’s been hard on all of us.

But New Brunswick’s researchers have rallied to the challenge. That’s something we can all be proud of.

Dr. Laura Richard, Director of Research

*The complete list of projects funded can be found here.

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