May 27, 2020

Community support fuels rapid response to COVID-19

A decade of investment in technology and expertise makes UCalgary a national leader
Alberta Children's Hospital
A decade of investment in technology and expertise makes UCalgary a national leader Alberta Children's Hospital Foundation

It takes a village to raise a child, so the saying goes. And it takes a community to give our children a healthy future. Inspired Albertans have given generously to support that future. Since 2011, community donors to the Alberta Children’s Hospital Foundation have invested $18.5 million into genomic research teams and rapid-fire technologies in the Cumming School of Medicine (CSM) to uncover the hidden causes of childhood diseases, expedite diagnoses and design better treatments.

Community investments allowed CSM to establish the Centre for Health Genomics and Informatics (CHGI), and during COVID-19, the centre is providing the essential tools for scientists and clinician researchers to answer critical questions.

“A decade of investments by our community has helped our scientists become national and international leaders in genomics research. We are deeply grateful for the incredible community support that allows us to undertake research with and for children and families, especially during this pandemic,” says Dr. Jon Meddings, MD, dean of the Cumming School of Medicine.

“In addition to their incredible generosity, we greatly appreciate the visionary mindset of our community. They were willing to fund the University of Calgary’s first next-generation DNA sequencing technologies at a time when the concept of genetic/genomic science was quite new to the public,” says Saifa Koonar, president and CEO of Alberta Children’s Hospital Foundation.

“That initial leap of faith and their continued support for people and programs in this area enabled the university to create a robust precision medicine research platform to help children and families. We are so pleased this important partnership helped put our research community in a position to rapidly respond to COVID-19 across Alberta, and around the world.”

Rapid response to understanding the COVID-19 pandemic

“This esteemed group of child health and wellness scientists are studying transmission, how the virus affects children and adults differently, and the role of genetics in illness severity,” says Dr. William Ghali, vice-president (research) at UCalgary. “The collaborative work of the University of Calgary, University of Alberta, Alberta Precision Laboratories, Alberta Health Services and Alberta Children’s Hospital will inform our response to the COVID-19 pandemic and help mitigate the impact of the virus.”

“Advancements in genomic medicine are a driving force in research, resulting in unprecedented opportunities for geneticists, biomedical scientists, physicians and epidemiologists to make deeper connections between precision and public health, ultimately enabling care providers at the bedside,” says Dr. Susa Benseler, MD, PhD, director of the Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute and lead of the emerging Child Health and Wellness Strategy at UCalgary.

“We are so very grateful that our community had the foresight to invest in research innovations for children and families.”


UCalgary resources on COVID-19

For the most up-to-date information about the University of Calgary's response to the spread of COVID-19, visit the UCalgary COVID-19 Response website.