Announcement of Medical Countermeasures to COVID-19


Speaking Notes

Dr. Mona Nemer
Chief Science Advisor of Canada

Announcement of Medical Countermeasures to COVID-19
April 23, 2020

Hello everyone, and thank you Deputy Prime Minister and ministers for inviting me to be here.

Never before have we talked as much about science or eagerly awaited research results to inform our daily actions and anticipate tomorrow’s.

These are indeed unprecedented times. Science has been our best weapon in this pandemic but we need more scientific knowledge about this new virus to overcome it and to ensure societal well being.

For example, we don’t know how many people were infected with COVID-19 because it turns out many individuals may be infected but show no symptoms. The current widespread testing – or PCR test – checks the presence of the virus, so it provides important data on who is infected at a given time. Serological testing checks for antibodies that are generated in response to an infection so they tell us whether someone has already been exposed to the virus. Together, the two tests will give us a better idea of the infection rate in the population. Serology testing will also tell us how quickly immunity develops and fades, and this is important in guiding our recovery strategies.

Other important information is how quickly the virus changes, or mutates, to escape detection, and whether certain individuals are more susceptible to infection or less able to overcome it. This is why the genomic initiative is important. It aims at sequencing several viral isolates and determining the DNA sequence of infected individuals. Together, the serology and the genomics initiatives will guide vaccine development and help prevent future infection.

One of the major challenges of this pandemic is to understand the immune response to the virus, the percentage of the population that has been infected and why certain groups are more vulnerable to the disease. The answers to these questions will provide us with the knowledge we need to fight the disease and better plan for the future. That is why the investments announced today will benefit all Canadians.

So today’s funding announcement – to enable serological testing, genomic sequencing, disease modeling and vaccine research and development – provides much-needed support for the research that will help us win the war against Covid-19 and will help our governments make evidence-informed decisions that will ultimately benefit us all. Thank you.