COVID-19 initiatives by Génome Québec


Harnessing genomics to win the battle against COVID-19

As early as April 2020, in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, Génome Québec took decisive action to support the Québec government and researchers in the fight against the coronavirus that was just taking shape.


With the collaboration of key players from the Québec and Canadian health and science research community, and leveraging the expertise of its teams and cutting-edge technology, Génome Québec has contributed to major genomics initiatives to address COVID-19, for example, by:

- Funding COVID-19 genomics projects

- Actively participating in the CanCOGeN network

- Developing the Biobanque québécoise de la COVID-19

- Mobilizing the Génome Québec and CIUSSS du Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean Biobank

- Launching a call for projects as mandated by the Ministère de l’Économie et de l’Innovation


Every day, the results from these projects are helping to accelerate research, develop COVID-19 therapies and discover vaccine options.  Thanks to genomics, researchers and policy makers are better equipped to deal with any subsequent waves of COVID-19 as well as other types of viruses in the foreseeable future.

Research programs

Génome Québec rapidly implemented two COVID-19 research programs :

COVID-19 Regional Genomics Initiative

Funding agencies: Génome Québec ($237.5k), Genome Canada ($237.5k), IRIC ($132.3k), McMaster U ($123k) and MILA ($280,779)
Investigators: Michael Tyers (IRIC), Yoshua Bengio (Mila), Anne Marinier (IRIC) and Matthew Miller (McMaster Immunology Research Centre), Génome Québec, in partnership with the Institute for Research in Immunology and Cancer (IRIC) of Université de Montréal, Quebec Artificial Intelligence Institute (Mila), McMaster University and Université de Montréal, have helped fund a new research project as part of the Genome Canada COVID-19 Regional Genomics Initiative.

The project aims to scale up the discovery of antiviral COVID-19 drugs by leveraging functional genomics and artificial intelligence using automated learning to identify therapeutic molecules that can target SARS-CoV-2. To do so, researchers are:

  1. Studying the interaction between the virus and human host cells with functional genomic techniques using CRISPR genetic scissors. The goal is to identify the genetic vulnerabilities of SARS-CoV-2, which can then be targeted by therapeutic molecules.
  2. Developing therapeutic molecules that target the virus-host cell interaction. They are using the LamdaZero platform that enables AI-assisted genomics screening.
  3. Selecting and synthesizing the best antivirals and combinations of therapeutic molecules using artificial intelligence and lab-based biochemical validation to determine candidates for clinical trials. 


This research initiative will serve as a proof of concept to improve the development of therapeutic molecules in other areas of medicine and for future pandemics.

Useful links

Overview of media coverage


Support for the evaluation of research programs for the Ministère de l’Économie et de l’Innovation (MEI)

Funding agency: MEI

By request of the Québec government, Génome Québec also launched, in partnership with organizations in the life science research and innovation sector, a call for proposals for COVID-19 solutions. Génome Québec assessed over 60 funding requests for projects in genomics and on other related topics, and went on to make recommendations to the MEI. A first funding announcement has, to date, led to the support of five projects on COVID-19.

Useful links

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