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Dal researchers asking for donations to support their work against the new coronavirus

Dr. David Kelvin says the fastest a vaccine could likely be ready is 18 months, given that usually it takes years before they are ready, however, he adds therapeutics like anti virals could be available sooner
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Dalhousie University. (Meghan Groff/HalifaxToday.ca)

Researchers at Dalhousie University working on vaccines, anti viral drugs and other elements of the new coronavirus are asking for financial support from the public to help fund their efforts.

Dr. David Kelvin is the Canada Research Chair in Translational Vaccinology and Inflammation, and a Professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at Dalhousie University. He's telling NEWS 95.7 they have a lot of work to do in a short period of time. He says it is difficult to anticipate all the new twists and turns this COVID-19 epidemic is taking, so the money will support existing work, but also give them the ability to respond to new questions and research paths.

Kelvin says COVID-19 presented them with many different qualities they didn't know the coronavirus family of viruses had.

"For SARS coronavirus, while the case fatality rate was high, the infectivity wasn't all of that high, but this virus, the infectivity is much higher than it was in SARS, even though the case fatality rate is lower, therefore it spreads more easily through the population," explains Kelvin.

He says that means they can't anticipate where it will hit next, which is a barrier to predicting where patients will be and being able to be in the right place at the right time is a key part of successful research studies. Kelvin says chasing down all those paths means more brainpower, and money, which is why to start with donations would be used to hire technicians, graduate students, and post doctoral fellows.

"These are the people who actually work in the trenches and are quite valuable to moving research along, so a donation would come in, and I think right now what we want to do is fund these individuals so that we can actually get enough people working on the problem in the trenches," says Kelvin. "And we actually train these people for future outbreaks and epidemics."

He says the fastest a vaccine could likely be ready is 18 months, given that usually it takes years before they are ready, however, he adds that's not the only way forward.

"That said, there are other types of therapeutics that may be developed earlier, anti virals are one of them, there is some good evidence today that there are anti virals that may work," says Kelvin. "But it requires a great deal of research in both models to make sure that it works, and in models to make sure that it's safe and effective."

Kelvin says the best way to donate is to reach out to the Dalhousie Medical Research Foundation at dmrf.ca, or call them at 902.494.3502.

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