The Hewitt Foundation, the late Elspeth McConnell, and the Trottier Family Foundation combine their donations to fight COVID-19

Just days into 2020, researchers in Wuhan, China announced that a spike in pneumonia cases was, in fact, a new strain of coronavirus. Within weeks, cases of this new disease were being reported worldwide. Mere months later, on March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus outbreak, called COVID-19, a pandemic. Today, more than 1.5 million people have been infected, and that number continues to climb.

Cities are on lockdown. Countries have closed their borders. In Canada, government officials have shut down schools, all non essential businesses and all public events. People who can are being told to stay in their homes.

As cases of COVID-19 continue to climb in Quebec, the need to find treatments and ultimately a cure for the novel coronavirus is growing increasingly urgent.

At the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC), the McGill Interdisciplinary Initiative in Infection and Immunity is leading the response.

“Our MUHC team”s are the hospital heroes

on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Julie Quenneville, President – MUHC Foundation

The gifts from The Hewitt Foundation, the late Elspeth McConnell, and the Trottier Family Foundation will allow the MUHC to rapidly launch critical research projects to end this virus, provide essential resources to isolated patients and support the tireless efforts of its hospital staff.

“Our MUHC teams are the hospital heroes on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. They’re caring for patients, leading numerous clinical trials to prevent and cure the virus, and working tirelessly to develop a vaccine,” says Julie Quenneville, MUHC Foundation President. “With these significant contributions to the COVID-19 Emergency Fund, we are getting closer to stopping the pandemic.”

The MUHC, together in partnership with McGill University, has been at the forefront of the fight against infectious diseases for years. In 2017, the McGill Interdisciplinary Initiative in Infection and Immunity (MI4) brought together over 250 researchers and 5,000 staff to address the threat of infection, and the next global pandemic.

“With the generosity and commitment of our community, our Foundation has been powering the researchers behind MI4 as they work to solve humanity’s greatest health challenges,” says Norman Steinberg, Chairman of the Board of the MUHC Foundation. “Now more than ever before, we need their leadership.”

Investigators are participating in trials of potential antiviral therapies for coronavirus, and through a collaboration with Laval University, are working to develop a vaccine that can combat this infection. Several vaccine formulas have been created, but now they must go through rigorous testing to prove their efficacy.

Researchers don’t yet understand how the SARS-COV-2 virus is transmitted. MI4 is working to change that. They will perform frequent screening to clearly define how long a patient is contagious and how effectively the virus is transmitted through body fluids (urine, tears, etc.) Using sequencing techniques, they will study coronavirus samples to understand its spread between patients over time. This will allow them to better understand the dynamics of transmission by linking individual virus characteristics across patients, and help identify the emergence of new, potentially more virulent strains of SARS-CoV-2.

The best way to control a disease is to understand it completely. Researchers are working to understand how the virus interacts with the immune system to predict which patients will have a mild course of illness and which are at risk for developing severe disease. Given the limited surge capacity of our health care system, this knowledge will be critical for allocating health care resources to those who need them the most.

“With this $4 million contribution, we can … focus on

rapidly detecting, preventing and curing this disease.”

… Dr. Bruce Mazer, Research Director, MUHC Research Institute

“Thanks to the generosity of these leading health care philanthropists, the COVID-19 Emergency Fund will support the priorities identified by the hospital, ensure resources are available to society’s most vulnerable, provide seed funding for new solutions and match funds for government grants,” says Dr. Bruce Mazer, Executive Director (interim) at the Research Institute of the MUHC (RI-MUHC). “With this $4 million contribution, we can take immediate action and focus on rapidly detecting, preventing and curing this disease.”

Please consider making a gift in support of the COVID-19 Emergency Fund. Your donation will help us in the fight to stop this pandemic. You can make a gift online at or by calling Miguel Burnier, Director of Development at the MUHC Foundation, at 514-934-1934, ext. 71205, [email protected]

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