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Sarnia college aiding COVID-19 vaccine research – Sarnia Observer



Lambton College. (File photo)

Researchers at a community college in Sarnia are working on five projects in the fight against COVID-19, everything from using microscopic algae try to help detect the virus to trying to replicate it in the race to find a vaccine.

The priority for Lambton College is a Natural Sciences Engineering Research Council of Canada-funded project that involves growing DNA in a lab to help efforts to create a COVID-19 vaccine.

The DNA, grown from E.coli using fermentation equipment before being extracted and purified, is then sent to Toronto-based Mediphage Bioceuticals, where it’s used to create virus-like particles meant to simulate COVID-19 and trigger an immune response in people, said Stephen Reaume, the college’s associate direction of research operations.

“The idea is you can actually grow the DNA you need to create any virus-like particle,” Reaume said. “You just need a base DNA structure and you could turn that into growing other vaccines as well, but we’re focused on COVID-19 right now.

Initially, college researchers were using the process to develop potential treatments for degenerative eye diseases, but the work was adapted for the vaccine project, he said.

Other researchers at the Sarnia school have been growing microalgae to produce spike proteins –  spike-shaped proteins used to “dock” onto other cells –  intended to detect COVID-19 antibodies in people who have, or had, the disease.

Normally, the spike proteins  that COVID-19 antibodies stick to are expense and slow to produce using mammalian cells, Reaume said.

“Our goal is to produce them from a high-productivity algae that would produce these spike proteins, so you could produce significantly more volumes of them to get out more and more testing to help with virus tracking.”

The 12-month project, which started around June, may be extended for a second year since more funding has come in, he said. Another $50,000 in federal funding was announced for the Lambton projects Friday, said research and innovation dean Mehdi Sheikhzadeh.

The spike protein project, Reaume said, is “very promising.”

Lambton researchers are refining the process before growing enough material to provide for large-scale production at Markham-based Pond Technologies, he said.

“They’re going to grow the algae in their 10,000-litre reactors to significantly grow more spike protein,” he said, noting the college has successfully grown and extracted proteins at the five-litre level.

“We’ve already sent (Pond Tech) samples for analysis, so it should start within the next couple of months,” he said about next steps.

The college has also been involved in producing beer-derived hand sanitizer with a Sarnia-based brewery. The beer the Refined Fool Brewing Co. would normally dump has been distilled and turned into sanitizer at the college, before being bottled and distributed to Sarnia health-care organizations since March.

So far, the college has helped produce about 50 litres of the sanitizer, boosted by funding from the Southern Ontario Network for Advanced Manufacturing Innovation.

College researchers were also part of a project to improve the intake portal for Link2Feed, a developer of food bank software, after the app experienced crashes earlier in the year due to a COVID-prompted surge in demand.

“They wanted to optimize their intake portal and their system to handle the increased volume” Reaume said.

Lambton College offered that help and the fix was complete by August, he said.

So far, more than $400,000 has gone towards the vaccine, spike protein, hand sanitizer, cap and seal and food bank software projects, Reaume said.

Another application was also made Thursday for Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council funding to produce hand sanitizer and moisturizer, Sheikhzadeh said.

The Sarnia college is trying to do its part to help in the fight against COVID-19, he added, noting there are many studies and projects like these around the world.

“We want to play a role,” he said.

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COVID-19: Ontario reports 1,707 new cases; disease spread at 'critical point,' says Elliott – Ottawa Citizen



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In the public health unit regions surrounding Ottawa, the total number of people who’ve had a case of COVID-19 confirmed rose by seven in Eastern Ontario, by six in Hastings Prince Edward, by two in Leeds, Grenville & Lanark and by one in Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox & Addington.

In other news, the province announced $550,000 in support for two companies with plans to add to the supply of made-in-Ontario surgical masks — Viva Healthcare Packaging in Toronto and Ckdpack Packaging in Straffordville.

The funding is being made available through the Ontario Together Fund, a pandemic initiative that’s allowed businesses to apply for money to pivot to PPE production.


Ottawa Public Health reported a new outbreak of COVID-19 Tuesday involving one staff member at the city-run Carleton Lodge long-term care home.

There are 22 ongoing outbreaks of the virus in local health care or congregate living institutions, as well as three in Ottawa schools, and five in community settings (three workplaces, one community organization and one social event).

OPH reported one new COVID-19 death Tuesday, bringing the number of local lives lost to the disease to 376.

With 34 new cases reported Tuesday, the number of active cases now sits at 351.

There are 24 Ottawans hospitalized with COVID-19, (unchanged from the previous day), with one person in ICU.


Quebec reported 1,177 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday.

Twenty-eight new deaths were reported, including three over the past 24 hours. Another 22 deaths occurred between Nov. 24 and 29, one happened before Nov. 24 and two more on unknown dates.

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Province reports 1,707 new COVID cases today – SooToday



Public Health Ontario has confirmed 1,707 new cases of COVID-19 today, which is 39 fewer than yesterday. There were 1,746 cases reported on Monday.

Of today’s new cases, most are confined to the Greater Toronto Area. There are 373 new cases confirmed in Peel Region, 727 cases in Toronto and 168 in York Region; that represents 1,268 — or 74 per cent — of the new lab-confirmed cases reported over the past 24 hours.

The agency also reported seven more deaths related to the coronavirus over the past 24 hours. Yesterday, eight deaths were reported.

More than 1,373 cases have been resolved since yesterday. 

Over the past 24 hours, 34,600 tests were completed.

Since the start of the pandemic, public health labs in Ontario have processed more than 6.3 million COVID-19 tests.

Throughout Ontario, there are 645 people currently hospitalized with the coronavirus.

  • Algoma Public Health: 60 cases, rate of 52.4 per 100,000 people. There are three known active cases.
  • North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit: 79 cases, rate of 54.7 per 100,000 people. There are 10 known active cases.
  • Porcupine Health Unit: 106, rate of 127 per 100,000 people. There are no known active cases. 
  • Public Health Sudbury and Districts: 230 cases, rate of 113.1 per 100,000 people. There are eight known active cases.
  • Timiskaming Health Unit: 18 cases, rate of 55.1 per 100,000 people. There is one known active case. 
  • Northwestern Health Unit: 121 cases, rate of 123.2 per 100,000 people. The health unit has also reported two probable cases that are under investigation. There are 17 known active cases.
  • Thunder Bay District Health Unit: 308 cases, rate of 168 per 100,000 people.There are 93 known active cases.

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Some Ottawa Public Health programs slowly returning –



Ottawa Public Health (OPH) has begun ramping up some community programs that were suspended at the start of the pandemic, but the city’s medical officer of health said not all will return to their pre-COVID-19 selves.

The pandemic didn’t just throw OPH’s budget into disarray but also how it offered many of its services, including chronic disease prevention work.

“These kinds of teams are completely redeployed to the COVID-19 response,” said Dr. Vera Etches, the city’s medical officer of health, on Monday.

OPH also had to shutter its four dental clinics across the city that offered services to people who had difficulties paying for care elsewhere.

The St. Laurent Boulevard clinic reopened for emergency services last week, while the Wabano Centre clinic should reopen part time on Thursday, Etches said.

Ottawa’s medical officer of health Vera Etches during a school visit in early September. Etches says some of OPH’s programs have gone virtual, while others have been scaled back or cancelled altogether. (Francis Ferland/CBC)

Those clinics together saw 140 clients a day before the pandemic hit, said OPH’s director of health promotion and chief nursing officer Esther Moghadam, and the hope is to get the other two open so vulnerable populations have easier access to one nearby. 

While the clinics were closed, Moghadam said dentists across the community stepped up to help and will likely have to continue to do so until the clinics are at full capacity.

“It’s still very early … There is going to be a need that we won’t be able to address fully,” she said.

Another program that fell by the wayside was the Healthy Growth and Development Program, which Etches said is currently running at 50 per cent capacity.

Its breastfeeding support work is moving online or having mothers come to OPH or other community partners instead of nurses visiting them in their homes.

Two mothers breastfeed their babies in Spain in a file photo. Ottawa Public Health’s Healthy Growth and Development Program, which offers breastfeeding support, is running at about 50 per cent capacity and has had to prioritize who gets an at-home visit from a public health nurse. (Jaime Reina/AFP/Getty Images)

Not all programs are set to return to the way they once were.

“We’re looking to learn from the new tools we have, the innovative approaches that can be built upon and the partnerships that we have grown to extend some of this work into the future,” said Etches.

That future shift includes those services tailored at chronic diseases, which she said will change because private companies have been stepping up to help protect and promote employee health.

COVID-19 in 2021

Ottawa’s Board of Health unanimously passed its largest budget ever at its meeting Monday night, with $24 million of its $98.1 million budget for 2021 expected to cover a number of one-time COVID-19 expenses

Even with positive vaccine updates, Etches said next year’s budget forecasts a similar amount of COVID-19 cases, outbreaks, follow-up and communication work in 2021 as exists now.

It is also expecting to help provide that COVID-19 vaccine to Ottawa residents “which we are hopeful, initially, will protect against hospitalizations and deaths in the people most at risk,” she said.

“That would be excellent.”

The budget will go to city council for final approval on Dec. 9.

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