Behind the bench: Our COVID-19 researchers


- Ottawa, Ontario

Our world-class researchers are working around the clock to support Canada's response to COVID-19. From research to resource tools, they are proud to be able to make a difference.

Leading the charge: Lakshmi Krishnan

Lakshmi Krishnan

"The Human Health Therapeutics Research Centre is working on several fronts to protect the health of Canadians by delivering on priority initiatives under the NRC's COVID-19 response.

We're working to accelerate the development of vaccine candidates, as well as contributing to collaborative efforts to deliver viral isolates, spike proteins, chemical reagents, and tools for diagnostics and testing. We are making a difference and I am confident that our efforts will contribute to tangible solutions for the current pandemic in the near future."

Lakshmi Krishnan, Director General, Human Health Therapeutics Research Centre

Addressing the urgent needs of healthcare workers: Joel C. Corbin

Joel C. Corbin

"Canada has been acquiring N95 respirators from new and unknown vendors in order to address the urgent needs of healthcare workers during this pandemic. Our team at the Metrology Research Centre has rapidly developed a system to test these respirators, using techniques we are familiar with from our background in airborne nanoparticle (aerosol) metrology. Our expertise on this topic was previously motivated by the role of aerosols in climate forcing, air pollution, and materials synthesis. This expertise requires a thorough understanding of aerosol transport and filtration, topics which are immediately transferable to virus filtration by respirators like the N95 respirators. In spite of that fact, 6 months ago I would never have guessed that I would find myself contributing to Canada's pandemic response! It has been an honour to contribute and to participate in the respirator-testing team. The speed of this respirator-testing project has been remarkable: the project was on its feet in days instead of months, all that thanks to focussed planning and execution, the support of multiple colleagues in many different ways, and the fact that the team dropped everything to make this a top priority."

Joel C. Corbin, Research Officer, Metrology Research Centre

Connecting COVID-19 researchers and clinicians: Simon Foote

Simon Foote

"I helped develop the COVID-19 Resources Canada portal and launch its reagents database. This portal is an important tool to help researchers and clinicians working on COVID-19 projects in Canada connect with one another and locate the human resources, expertise, and reagents they need to do their work. Collaboration is the key to fighting this pandemic—we're all in this together."

Simon Foote, Bioinformatician, Human Health Therapeutics

N95 supply chain - thinking outside the box: Richard Green

Richard Green

"Personal protective equipment (PPE) must be tested to ensure safety and efficacy. While Canada relies on approved and trusted PPE suppliers, the COVID-19 pandemic illuminated a significant gap in the national capability to perform many of the required tests as we sought to build a supply outside the usual chain. This was most clear in the case of N95 respirators, and the NRC stepped in quickly to partner with the Public Health Agency of Canada to develop test capability to support qualification of imported lots. Going forward, the NRC will have a role in disseminating test capability throughout Canada and building the quality infrastructure to promote its long term viability."

Richard Green, Team Lead, N95 respirator testing, Metrology Research Centre

Decontamination of medical personal protective equipment: John Martinovic

John Martinovic

"The Clēan Flow Healthcare Mini is a device that decontaminates medical personal protective equipment, and has been proven to kill 99.99% of a surrogate for COVID‑19. Our cross-functional team responsible for advancing the Clēan Flow Healthcare Mini project worked diligently over the last couple of weeks to accelerate the regulatory process and move to production. Within a few days, our team helped the firm obtain class 2 medical device certification for its device, and then focussed on a strategy to increase the company's manufacturing capacity from building 3-4 units a week to approximately 25 units a week.

Our work is far from over as we look to evolve the use of the device to further support hospitals and health facilities during this pandemic."

John Martinovic, Industrial Technology Advisor and Subject Expert Team (SET) lead for PPE and hard surface sanitization

Reagents for COVID-19 testing: Luke Masson

Luke Masson

"Viral testing requires both enzymatic and chemical reagents to extract the COVID virus from samples and positively identify it. We're experiencing a worldwide shortage of materials used in the extraction and amplification of the COVID RNA (ribonucleic acid) genome for diagnostics.

We are now working on making both the reagents and enzymes that go into the testing kits for coronavirus, and distributing them to provincial public agencies and academia. This will help relieve the current shortage, and prevent such shortages in the future."

Luke Masson, Principal Research Officer, Microbial Fermentation Team

Collaborating to test N95 respirators: Greg Nilsson

Greg Nilsson

"The Construction Research Centre has partnered with the Metrology Research Centre to test N95 respirators, in support of the federal government's efforts to ensure screening of personal protective equipment. We designed and built a device to test the respirators by using instrumentation that we normally use to measure the concentration of particulate matter in air cleaning tests. We also adapted a construction testing chamber to condition the samples before testing. As a result, we developed a high-production process to mount and condition samples for the N95 respirator tests being conducted at Metrology's labs. It has been a unique experience, to see a group of scientists and engineers who work in a variety of fields coming together to respond to this challenge. What our team has accomplished in such a short time, it really is something remarkable to be a part of."

Greg Nilsson, Sample Preparation Lead, Construction Research Centre

Providing reliable measurements on mask efficiency: Isabelle Rajotte

Isabelle Rajotte

"I have been assisting the Black Carbon Metrology team in the testing of N95 respirators for a collaboration project with the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC). We are providing PHAC with reliable measurements on mask efficiency in order to have scientific evidence supporting PHAC's decisions to release only qualifying respirators to Canada's essential workers. Since my regular research at the NRC is not focussed on COVID-19 efforts, it feels great to be able to help out during this pandemic. I'm so impressed with how quickly my colleagues have been able to develop and validate a method for respirator testing. Being involved reminds me that I do have an impact on our society and it's rewarding to be part of that collaboration."

Isabelle Rajotte, Technical Officer, Metrology Research Centre

Upgrading the NRC's biomanufacturing facility: Frank van Lier

Frank van Lier

"We're working hard on upgrading the NRC's Royalmount facilities in Montréal. The Government of Canada has invested $44 million in funding that will enable us to prepare our facility to produce vaccines for clinical trials, as well as maintain operations and provide new infrastructure to fill and finish individual doses of vaccine as soon as one becomes available.

The exceptional nature of the current circumstances has facilitated strong collaboration with other government agencies and departments, like Health Canada. Thanks to this close collaboration, we can move a lot faster to get everything up and running in record time. In this unique and challenging time, to see that the NRC is stepping up to help is definitely something that we can be proud of."

Frank van Lier, Research and Development Director, Bioprocess Engineering

Preparing samples for respirator testing: Vicky Wang

Vicky Wang

"I volunteered to prepare samples for the conditioning and testing of N95 respirators, applying knowledge I'd normally use in my job as an instrumentation and data acquisition specialist with the Construction Research Centre. The task is demanding, but it's also very rewarding to know that the work we are doing is helping to protect the lives of Canadians. It is critical to make sure respirators comply with Canadian health and safety requirements to protect those who wear them in the fight against the COVID virus."

Vicky Wang, Technical Officer, Construction Research Centre

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