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The Research Institute of St. Joe’s is pleased to announce that a special discretionary award has been granted to members of the Disease, Diagnostics, and Development (D3) Group. Since January, the D3 Group has been working tirelessly to design, prepare for, and improve COVID-19 testing through several ongoing research projects.

The award recognizes each member’s ongoing commitment to discovery and selfless dedication to the public good in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. The D3 Group has been working long hours under immense pressure to develop and secure the supply chain for mass testing capacity throughout the province and beyond.

When the SARS-CoV-2 genome was first mapped in January, Dr. David Bulir and the team at St. Joe’s research laboratory designed a novel, robust molecular test for the virus. The team worked to procure an alternate supply of testing materials, including swabs and specimen transport tubes, as the producer of the “gold standard” swabs and tubes was unable to meet global demand after its Italian factory was affected by Italy’s quarantine mandate. 

Over the past several months, the D3 Group created a new, safer transport medium – the McMaster Molecular Medium (MMM) – and secured a local supply chain to produce the MMM in specimen transport tubes. In September, production of the MMM was licensed exclusively to Bay Area Health Trust.

These materials have been used in several research studies, including an ongoing study with Air Canada to test arriving international travelers at Pearson Airport. That study is also assessing the viability of self-collected nasal-oral swabs. A study with the Shelter Health Network also sought to perform COVID-19 surveillance testing on vulnerable homeless populations.

The D3 Group has conducted tens of thousands of COVID-19 tests in their research laboratory, using robotic high-throughput technology. Their methods and reagents, including the MMM, have recently been deployed at Toronto’s Shared Hospital Laboratory, which managed to eliminate their weeks-long backlog in only 48 hours of implementation. The D3 Group is currently working with other clinical labs in Ontario to expand access to this technology.

In recognition of these incredible achievements, the award was conferred upon:

  • David Bulir
  • Sylvia Chong
  • Leah Daniel
  • Ken Gavina
  • Jodi Gilchrist
  • Steven Liang
  • Julia Maciejewski
  • Sarah Marttala
  • Laura Puri
  • Marek Smieja
  • Nicole Smieja
  • Valentina Vera
  • Melissa MacDonald Weddum

A small, physically distanced gathering was held on October 30 to recognize these achievements. Members of the D3 Group were able to take a break from their lab work and share their experiences of the past few months with St. Joe’s leaders, including SJHH President Melissa Farrell.

 SJHH President, Melissa Farrell, listens to members of the D3 Group as they share their stories about working long hours in the research lab over the past several months. Ms. Farrell and other staff members wore their Halloween attire that day to brighten spirits!

 

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