SFU chemistry professor Robert Britton will receive $315,000 for new instrumentation to help speed up the production of small molecules know as nucleoside analogues that will be used to create urgently needed antiviral drugs.

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SFU advances COVID-19 research with $1M from Canada Foundation for Innovation

November 06, 2020
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SFU researchers are continuing to advance COVID-19 related research—from diagnostics to treatment—with more than $1 million from the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) through its Exceptional Opportunities Fund (EOF-COVID-19).

The funding, announced Friday by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, is part of almost $28 million for research equipment related to COVID-19. The EOF-COVID-19 fund was created for instances where “an exceptional research opportunity would be missed” if a project was subject to the normal national competition process. It is spread across 79 projects at 52 universities and hospitals across Canada.

At SFU, the funding will help four ongoing projects, including $315,000 for new instrumentation for chemistry professor Robert Britton’s lab, to help speed up the production of small molecules know as nucleoside analogues that will be used to create urgently needed antiviral drugs.

Traditionally, difficulties in making and purifying these molecules have presented a bottleneck in the discovery of new drugs. SFU’s project takes advantage of a new type of chemistry discovered in the Britton lab, to quickly make a wide variety of new nucleoside analogues.

The funding will help automate this novel chemistry, improving the current output 10-fold, producing libraries of thousands of molecules that can be tested for anit-COVID-19 properties.

Other projects at SFU awarded EOF-COVID-19 funding:

Chemistry professor Robert Young will receive $200,000 to to purchase critical equipment to rapidly measure binding of potential inhibitors to key protein targets produced by the SARS-Cos-2 virus.

Confirmation of binding is one of the first steps in validating lead molecules identified from high-throughput screening. Young’s lab is identifying potential leads and the equipment will help focus on those with the best chance for drug candidate molecules.

Health sciences professor Masahiro Niikura will receive $370,000 to supercharge the province’s SARs-CoV-2 translational COVID-19 research program to improve diagnostics, prevention and treatment.

The proposed integrated molecular, immunologic and virologic platform will accelerate ongoing development of new COVID-19 diagnostic tests and help scientists to better understand SARS-CoV-2 biology. This is turn, will advance COVID-19 diagnostics, treatment and prevention.

And health sciences professor Ralph Pantophlet will receive $215,000 for a pair of instruments to gain greater comprehension of how antibodies bind to SARS-CoV-2.

Pantophlet and his team are studying neutralizing antibodies, which are those with capacity to block virus infection. The team hopes to gain a better understanding of whether specific antibody-binding features are relevant to protection against COVID-19. This could help vaccine development efforts and therapeutic endeavors.

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