Research projects on hold as all efforts turn to COVID-19

Researchers work on COVID-19 projects in their lab at Western University in London, Ont. on Thursday, March 26, 2020. (Celine Zadorsky / CTV London)

Thousands of research projects across the city have been put on hold due to COVID-19, including many at Western University.

“We are only carrying on with research we believe is essential research and by that we mean research that’s related to the COVID-19 itself," says Sarah Prichard, Western’s vice-president of research.

Prichard says there are exceptions being made as well for critical research projects that would lose years of data if suddenly halted.

“We have cell cultures and other biological specimens and biopsies that are used in studies that are also clinically relevant and we also don’t want to lose the value of that work and those specimens.”

Halted research projects are also a reality for many scientists at the Lawson Health Research Institute

“Most laboratory work that’s not involved in COVID projects have been shut down and those staff have been working from home,” says Dr. David Hill, scientific director at Lawson.

However, Hill says it’s a different story when it comes to some clinical trials that are already underway.

“Some of those protocols would be dangerous to the patients if we were to stop, for instance, clinical trials. Those where we do need to carry on for the safety of the patients are still carrying on.”

Hill adds that researchers with projects on hold are using their expertise now in different ways to help fight COVID-19.

“As of this morning we have had 13 COVID-related studies, all new in the last two weeks, now going through the approvals process.”