UVic focusing on COVID-19 with new research fund

UVic has announced a new Research Accelerator Fund to raise money to support research — with its first campaign focusing on COVID-19.

Researchers are working on a list of about 90 virus-related projects. “There’s a lot of activity underway,” Lisa Kalynchuk, UVic’s vice-president of research, said Tuesday.

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Some projects have received funding and are already underway while other researchers are still planning their projects or are looking for funding, Kalynchuk said.

“It’s a pretty large number of people who are activated and who have great ideas to contribute to recovery, so there’s lots of opportunity for donors to contribute,” she said.

Kalynchuk, who became UVic’s vice-president of research a year ago, said the fund was established to create new revenue for research over the long term.

“The COVID situation created some urgency around it,” she said. “This is something that is meant to help our UVic researchers contribute to community resilience or recovery from COVID.”

The fund is intended to respond to urgent community needs relating to economic sustainability and the health of individuals and populations and Indigenous wellness. UVic will work with partners including other communities, universities here and abroad, government, health authorities and industry.

The aim is to advance “big ideas to make real change in our everyday lives over the long term,” Kalynchuk said.

The fund could be used, for example, to support researchers who need to show examples of their work in order to secure support from larger funding organizations, helping them to launch their work.

When it comes to COVID, “researchers are on a quest for new biomedical tools,” she said. “From developing rapid, non-invasive tests and virus-resistant surface coatings, to ways of detecting and monitoring COVID-19, society is hungry for new tools and strategies to fight the novel coronavirus.”

After the initial focus on the virus, “the fund will then be directed in the future to other pressing global issues — climate change, homelessness, affordable housing, food security, water security,” Kalynchuk said. “There’s no shortage of global challenges.”

UVic has provided $100,000 to start the fund. “In the short term, we would love to double or triple our money so that we could advance some key COVID-related projects in the next six months,” she said.

Beyond that, it could be possible to attract large donations to fund specific activities in a specific area, she said. “Research is not a cheap endeavour. You can spend as much as you bring in.”

cjwilson@timescolonist.com

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