Canada’s Global Nexus: Addressing COVID-19 and preventing future pandemics

lab worker, fully masked, works on preparing a vaccine.

Canada's Global Nexus for Pandemics and Biological Threats is a hub for international networks of experts and partners who can act fast and act together in the face of serious and emerging threats to global well-being.

McMaster researchers have started human clinical trials on two inhaled second-generation COVID-19 vaccines designed to fight variants of concern.

A potentially game-changing development in the global race to beat back the pandemic, these McMaster-made vaccines are yet another proof of concept for Canada’s Global Nexus for Pandemics and Biological Threats, a worldwide hub based at McMaster that brings together networks of experts and partners from industry, community and government to develop solutions to protect communities and mitigate looming health threats.

While COVID-19 is the first pandemic of our lifetimes, it is not expected to be the last. Experts anticipate further risks to global health arising from unexpected novel pathogens or increasingly complex drug-resistant superbugs.

That’s why Canada’s Global Nexus researchers are also laying the groundwork to anticipate, prevent and protect against future pandemics.

What it is

Canada’s Global Nexus for Pandemics and Biological Threats builds on McMaster’s established position as a world leader in infectious disease research, evidence-based medicine, and advanced manufacturing. Hosted at the university, it is a hub for international networks of experts and partners who can act fast and act together in the face of serious and emerging threats to global well-being.

Who’s involved

Led by McMaster researchers Gerry Wright, Dawn Bowdish, John Lavis and Chandrima Chakraborty, Canada’s Global Nexus comprises four program task forces that include more than 120 researchers and experts across faculties and disciplines at McMaster.

What they do

Experts from Canada’s Global Nexus are working across fields to focus on not only the biomedical and health aspects of this pandemic and other potential public health threats, but also their social, economic and political ramifications.

Several task force members are trusted advisors to the federal and provincial governments, including at least five who are members of the volunteer Ontario Science Table. Canada’s Global Nexus experts have provided advice to government and health agencies in a number of capacities.

“Working with our national and international partners, we’re ramping up scientific discoveries and solutions around infectious disease and antimicrobial resistance, but also looking at the global economic and social impacts of biological threats,” says Gerry Wright, lead of Canada’s Global Nexus and a global leader in antibiotic discovery.

“With a deeper, more comprehensive understanding of these threats and others, we’re better prepared to address them.”

From AMR discovery before this pandemic, to the early days of COVID-19, to the development of inhaled booster, here are some notable examples of the ways in which Canada’s Global Nexus is leading the fight against COVID-19 and other biological threats.

Isolating SARS-CoV2 Scientists in virologist Karen Mossman’s lab were among the first in Canada to isolate the agent responsible for COVID-19 from Canadian patients and share this critical resource with researchers across the country, paving the way for the development of vaccines and treatments.

Inhaled vaccines that fight variants Human trials are beginning on second-generation vaccines that go directly to the lungs to combat variants of concern. Canada’s Global Nexus researchers from different disciplines worked together at McMaster’s Robert E. Fitzhenry Vector Laboratory to develop and manufacture these vaccines.

Seminal work on vector vaccines Millions of people worldwide owe their health and lives to molecular virologist Frank Graham’s game-changing research on viral vectors at McMaster. In fact, his work on the Ad5 vector forms the platform for some of the COVID-19 vaccines people are receiving today.

Blood clots and vaccines Researchers at the McMaster Platelet Immunology Lab are acknowledged leaders in studying blood clots related to COVID-19 and the vaccines that protect against it. The lab is the only place in Canada equipped to identify, diagnose and treat these clots.

Better protection for Canadians The Centre of Excellence in Protective Equipment and Materials at McMaster is Canada’s first research hub dedicated to developing, testing and validating personal protective equipment. The centre draws on the expertise of an established network of engineers, clinicians and manufacturers, developing resources and innovations to help keep Canadians safe.

Shaping sound policy The COVID-19 Evidence Network to support Decision-making (COVID-END) brings together experts who synthesize research evidence on the impact of public health measures, clinical management, health-system arrangements, and economic and social policy on Canadians’ health and safety.

Protecting older adults Canada’s Global Nexus researchers are working with community organizations and long-term care homes to ensure that older adults are protected from COVID-19 and its impact on their physical, mental and social health.

Working with vulnerable populations Canada’s Global Nexus researchers are working with diverse immigrant and Indigenous communities to better understand community members’ immune response and to increase vaccine confidence.

Long COVID As rising vaccination rates help us put the worst of the pandemic behind us, our researchers are turning their attention to how and why some COVID-19 survivors suffer lingering effects from the virus.

The post-COVID world Researchers across disciplines at McMaster are also studying the social, cultural, economic and political impact of the pandemic and our collective and individual response to it.

AMR: The next pandemic Antimicrobial resistance remains one of the gravest threats to our health and safety. Canada’s Global Nexus researchers are leading pioneering work in antibiotic discovery and drug development.

Flu fighters Researchers from Canada’s Global Nexus and colleagues at the University of Buffalo have developed a vaccine that could provide better protection against seasonal flu and could lead to a universal vaccines.

Genomic surveillance Leading experts on genome sequencing are on the front lines of genomic surveillance of infectious pathogens, including antibiotic resistant superbugs and viral variants of concern.

Malaria research Canada’s Global Nexus researchers have discovered a promising new antimalarial compound that could help develop new drugs. 
Bioethicists from Canada’s Global Nexus are also leading an initiative to update international R&D guidelines on genetically modified mosquitoes, with implications for the eradication of malaria and other deadly illnesses.

DNA detection of pathogens McMaster researchers developed a sophisticated tool to provide early warning of rare or unknown viruses and identify potentially deadly bacterial pathogens.

Related Stories