Research teams from several University of Toronto departments have undertaken innovative projects to understand and combat Covid-19.

Earlier this month, Scott Gray-Owen, a molecular genetics professor at the Temerty faculty of medicine, received the Minister of College and Universities’ Awards of Excellence. Professor Gray-Owen’s research has significantly advanced the province’s reaction and management of Covid-19, making Ontario a safer place in these trying times.

Professor Gray-Owen’s research focuses on the interactions between human-restricted bacterial and viral pathogens. His contributions to Covid-19 research has been significant in determining the effectiveness of personal protective equipment. 

Gray-Owen’s experiments at the molecular genetics department concluded that masks produced by I3 BioMedical Inc. are highly efficient in protecting the wearer. The sanitary layer, which coats, the masks neutralizes the virus almost entirely. This considerably decreases the risk of medical personnel contracting Covid-19 if they were to come in contact with the outer, contaminated layer of their masks during removal or adjustment. 

This is a huge step forward in fighting the novel coronavirus as it allows health care workers to touch their masks without risking cross-contamination. Thanks to his research, medical personnel can feel a lot more secure on the frontlines. 

In an interview with U of T News, Christine Allen, associate vice-president and vice-provost of strategic initiatives, praised Gray-Owen and emphasized the importance of his research.

“His efforts helped [I3 BioMedical Inc.] bring its essential health innovation to market, supporting a made-in-Canada solution to the pressing need for personal protective equipment for frontline health-care workers,” said Allen.

Gray-Owen also discussed the progress of Covid-19 research and the university’s support of students and faculty in their endeavors. 

“The natural synergies that arise from U of T’s culture of innovation and collaboration have always driven impactful breakthroughs,” stated Gray-Owen. “But the speed and scale with which our entire community pivoted toward this great challenge has honestly been inspiring to behold and gives me the confidence that science will once again save us.”

In addition to the faculty of medicine, the robotics institute has conducted notable research on Covid-19 and how governments can better respond to the crisis at hand. The faculty of engineering released an authoritative report  on September 21. This report is the product of 14 U of T researchers with a combined 130 years of experience and informs the public about robotics and how it can help combat the novel coronavirus.

Through intensive research and numerous interviews, this report examines the pandemic from a variety of perspectives.

“From disinfection and remote triage, to logistics and delivery, countries around the world are making use of robots to address the unique challenges presented by the Covid-19 pandemic,” states the executive summary. “But the story of robots and Covid-19 is not just about which countries are using robots to help manage their pandemic response; it is also about how the pandemic has become an inflection point for accelerating investment in robotics more broadly.”

The report analyzes Canada’s most significant vulnerabilities and advantages, going on to discuss how the robotics industry can help keep citizens safe while also increasing efficiency across sectors.  Moreover, it provides decision-makers with necessary information surrounding robotics and its potential roles in the fight against Covid-19.

“Canada has the opportunity to create a roboticized future that reflects the unique cultural, geographic, and economic needs of its citizens,” reads the report. “Rather than fear that robots will one day take over our jobs, our freedom, and our privacy, we can engineer and design the robots that we want to ensure a bright future for this country and its residents.”

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