President, Bioscience Association Manitoba
Bioscience research, including crucial work on COVID-19 treatments, is thriving in the heart of Canada, and the Bioscience Association Manitoba has launched a newsletter to highlight this work.
Manitoba is known for its spectacular views, world-class museums, and of course, its polar bears, but some Canadians don’t know that the province is also home to a strong culture of bioscience research. From agricultural biotechnology, which addresses global issues like food safety and climate change, to the development of new therapies and diagnostic tests with work in biohealth, Manitoba is a veritable bioscience hub supported by a dedicated community of researchers.
“The size of our community and our fairly consistent demographics makes us an excellent site for research,” says Tracey Maconachie, President of the Bioscience Association Manitoba (BAM). “Our researchers know each other, have close connections to universities, and know the ins and outs of the types of approvals they need to go through. It’s an environment that’s allowed us to build on our strengths. And when COVID-19 hit, our researchers really took charge.”
Manitoban researchers’ quick response to pandemic
The early months of the pandemic were defined by anxious uncertainty, spurring scientists around the world into a flurry of urgency. Meanwhile, Canadians trying to stay on top of the news faced a massive quantity of information (and misinformation). Research and reliable sources that break it down for public consumption continue to be critically important for public health.
Researchers around Manitoba quickly mobilized to tackle questions around potential pre-treatments (prophylactics), medicines for active infections, and factors around the health of vulnerable populations. One landmark study looked at the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine, which was initially hypothesized to be a potential treatment for COVID-19. An international clinical trial, whose Canadian arm was led by the University of Manitoba’s Dr. Ryan Zarychanski, confirmed that the drug is not an effective treatment for COVID-19 — a major breakthrough given the drug’s popularity in the media at the time.
The search for effective treatments continues, with multiple world-class clinical trials underway in Manitoba around therapeutic interventions and vaccines.
Cut through the noise with Discovering COVID
Keeping up with the latest updates on COVID-19, let alone sifting through them to find reliable sources, can be a serious effort given the speed of the news cycle. Subscribing to a publication from a trustworthy source, like BAM’s Discovering COVID newsletter, is one way to cut through the noise.
“We created the newsletter to inform people about Manitoba’s research community, but also to help people understand scientific concepts,” says Maconachie. “For instance, we’ve covered what a clinical trial looks like, and what actually goes into testing and evaluating medications to make sure they’re safe.”
The newsletter shines a spotlight on Manitoba’s research community and offers evidence-based, plain-language answers to common questions about COVID-19. Past topics include detailed explainers about vaccines and antivirals, debunking myths about mask usage and various “alternative” treatments, and Q&As with notable researchers. Given its range of topics, the newsletter’s subscriber list reaches far beyond Manitoba’s borders, attracting readers who need a dependable source for pandemic-related news.
“The situation will continue to evolve, and science is constantly changing. What we now know about COVID-19 has evolved a hundredfold compared to what we knew six months ago,” says Maconachie. “That’s why we’re continuing to publish the newsletter and doing our best to keep everyone up to date.”