Sudbury·Audio

Laurentian University researcher hopes new equipment will sharpen COVID-19 investigation

A chemistry and biochemistry professor at Laurentian University will be enhancing his research on the coronavirus, with help from newly awarded federal grant.

Stefan Siemann says results from study will be important to help treat future strains of coronavirus

Laurentian University professor Stefan Siemann stands with his students on the school's campus in July of 2020, when they first started research on the COVID-19 main protease. (Supplied/Stefan Siemann)

A chemistry and biochemistry professor at Laurentian University will be enhancing his research on the coronavirus, with help from newly awarded federal grant.

Stefan Siemann is one of many researchers around the globe studying COVID-19, and the $200,000 grant he's received from the Canada Foundation for Innovation will purchase a fluorometer and a microplate-reader system. The equipment will help find better ways to analyze the main protease or enzyme the coronavirus makes.

The results could then be used by pharmaceutical companies to develop drugs that could shut down the virus.

"So we're not developing drugs, but rather feed into it by developing the assays that researchers or even pharmaceutical enterprises could use to find those molecules that shut down that virus," he said.

Research at Laurentian University in Sudbury is part of a global network of experts using 3-D imaging technology to find potential weaknesses in the cell structure of SARS-Cov-2, the virus responsible for the current pandemic. File photo. (Anton Vaganov/Reuters)

Siemann says his research likely won't be published until after a COVID-19 vaccine is ready. But he says the results will still be important to help treat future strains of the coronavirus.

"We had SARS, we had MERS, so we believe that this is returning at some point. These are three coronaviruses in a row, starting in 2002-2003, and so it preps us for the next time to maybe be little bit better prepared."

Siemann's grant is one of 79 projects being funded through the CFI's Exceptional Opportunities Fund, which includes $28 million for similar projects at 52 institutions across Canada.

Work on the project started this past summer with a student group working the viral protease, he said.

"And this is continuing to this day. And so we, of course, appreciate the really good news from CFI Innovation Canada that we're getting now some state-of-the-art equipment."

A chemistry and biochemistry professor at Laurentian University will be enhancing his research on the coronavirus thanks to a newly awarded federal grant. Stefan Siemann is one of many researchers around the globe studying COVID-19. He joined us to talk about his research and how the new money will help. 6:22

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