Mr. Chair, the COVID-19 pandemic is the worst public health crisis we have seen in generations.
It is a major threat to the well-being and prosperity of Canadians and people around the world. As a nation, we have done an amazing job of banding together from coast to coast to coast over the past few months to collectively address this unprecedented challenge.
Canada's intrinsic spirit can be seen in our essential and front-line workers and their staunch dedication to their communities. We owe them our deepest gratitude and, in some cases, our lives. We must also do our best to honour the many unsung heroes of these times.
Today, I am proud to shine a light on the innovative, tireless efforts of Canadian health care scientists and the important role that research plays in our response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Canada is lucky enough to have produced some brilliant minds, valuable assets that are sometimes underestimated.
In Quebec, in Montreal, I am thinking of all the researchers and scientists at the University of Montreal, McGill University, the Montreal Heart Institute, CHUM, Sainte-Justine Hospital and many others, who are working every day to develop innovative solutions for keeping everyone healthy.
Before this crisis, it is possible that we may have taken for granted our medical researchers who so often toil behind the scenes, but no longer. When the threat of COVID-19 first bore upon us, Canada's health research community stepped up without hesitation when we needed it most, and Canadians are forever grateful.
Even before the first cases were diagnosed in Canada, our government engaged with academic, industry, provincial and international partners to swiftly implement a research response to the pandemic. In February, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research was the first agency globally to launch an open call for COVID-19 research. Working closely with federal and provincial partners, the institutes sought to accelerate the development, testing and implementation of medical and social countermeasures to mitigate the rapid spread of COVID-19. Within a few short weeks of the initial launch, our Canadian Institutes of Health Research awarded peer-reviewed grants to 100 meritorious Canadian projects, a process that normally takes over a year.
Since then, bolstered by the $1.1-billion national medical research strategy that our government announced through our Prime Minister in April, the CIHR has already committed approximately $170 million and leveraged $25 million in partner funds for research on COVID-19. This very impressive outcome is a testament to the calibre of our health scientists and their commitment to protecting and improving the health of Canadians.
I am pleased to report that coordinated investment and mobilization through our Canadian Institutes of Health Research and other federal partners is advancing a broad and balanced portfolio of COVID-19 research.
We are advancing knowledge in fundamental research, new clinical guidelines and the assessment of the expected and unexpected effects of public health measures. We are advancing research aligned with Canadian and international priorities in the fields of therapeutics, transmission dynamics, diagnostics, public health measures and more. We are supporting clinical trials across Canada, as they are the best mechanism for offering Canadians experimental treatments while ensuring effectiveness. We are fast-tracking collaborative efforts to develop a made-in-Canada vaccine.
Federal investment through our Canadian Institutes of Health Research is enabling leading vaccine centres in Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia to join forces and pool their expertise and resources. To date, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research's COVID-19 rapid research competitions have awarded funding to 14 promising vaccine development studies. These investments complement the significant federal investment in vaccine research through Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada's strategic innovation fund. We are also fostering critical partnerships between academia and the medical industry for vaccine development.
The work that is being done on the ground is absolutely incredible. A Quebec company called Medicago is using its technology platform to develop antibodies against the virus in co-operation with Laval University. Of course, the goal of this research is to protect the health of Canadians. We need to ensure that we are putting enough focus on the Canadian context and the specific needs of various populations. That means investing in strategic, targeted research to help our most vulnerable groups.
In addition to increasing anxiety about our health and safety, this pandemic has disrupted many aspects of our personal lives. Job insecurity, isolation and the loss of a loved one all have significant impacts on our mental health. To address this, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research is leading an initiative to provide urgent data to support decision-making on mental health responses to this pandemic. Guided by an external expert advisory panel, the initiative will inform the rapid deployment of psychological supports for mental health and substance use.
I am very happy to report that in the month of June a preliminary body of rapid knowledge syntheses was shared with decision-makers and partners within just 30 days of the funding allocation. These reports synthesize current evidence on mental health and substance use services, delivery guidelines and practices, and related issues placed in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Another very critical area of study pertains to the sex differences in the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and associated immune responses. A government-funded team has already published results highlighting how different sex responses and the mechanisms behind them may help inform novel therapeutic approaches to COVID-19.
Research efforts are also focused on Canadian seniors. As we saw in many provinces, Canada's aging population is particularly vulnerable to the pandemic, as are residents of long-term care facilities, such as Quebec's CHSLDs.
A team funded by the Dalhousie University research institute recently published a paper on the impact of the virus on these care facilities, which proposed that biomarkers could help predict disease severity and explain why some residents are more severely affected than others.
Research on indigenous health also remains a priority for our government. We know that Canada's indigenous people were disproportionately affected by the pandemic. The COVID-19 response lacked culturally appropriate, distinctions-based interventions grounded in sound evidence and indigenous knowledge. Consequently, we created a funding opportunity to address these deficiencies through bold and innovative strengths-based, solution-focused research led by the community.
While our foremost priority is the health of Canadians, we must recognize that a virus knows no borders. This is a global threat that requires a collaborative global response. This is why we are working in close concert with international partners, such as the World Health Organization, the Global Research Collaboration for Infectious Disease Preparedness and others. Through our international engagement in scientific research, we can leverage every opportunity to bring innovations home to Canadians while promoting homegrown expertise and leadership.
It is also extremely important to have evidence-based policy. As we work diligently to protect Canadians, we continue to base our decisions on the evolving body of evidence that exists in the research community, and we continue to learn more about the virus every day. We are connecting policy-making with science, for instance, through knowledge mobilization activities, and with supports for COVID-19 vaccine and therapeutic task forces.
Investments in health research and in our researchers ultimately pays dividends in saved lives. We are heartened by the remarkable dedication and talent of our scientists, and our government has acknowledged its obligation to sustain Canada's research excellence. This means supporting our researchers now and into the post-pandemic recovery. I invite the members of this House to join me in recognizing the invaluable efforts of Canada's research community.