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The Lazaridis Family Foundation contributes $1 million to the IRCM to support its research on the COVID-19 coronavirus

March 4 2020 | COVID-19

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The Foundation of the Montreal Clinical Research Institute (IRCM) is pleased to announce a $1 million contribution from the Lazaridis Family Foundation to support research led by Michel Chrétien and Majambu Mbikay on the antiviral drug isoquercetin. The two IRCM researchers discovered that isoquercetin has antiviral properties against several viruses, making it a candidate to treat the coronavirus SARS-Cov-2 which causes COVID-19 (Corona Virus Disease 2019).

The donation will allow the IRCM team to initiate clinical trials on patients in China soon. “We are proud to support Drs. Michel Chrétien and Majambu Mbikay for their important work at the Montreal Clinical Research Institute as part of the urgent global effort to combat COVID-19,” explains Mike Lazaridis, OC, OOnt, FRS, FRSC, Co-Founder & Managing Partner Quantum Valley Investments.

“The IRCM is extremely grateful for the support of the Lazaridis Family Foundation and our wish is to collect additional donations in the coming weeks,” says André Couillard, President of the IRCM Foundation. “We hope that this donation will encourage our governments to share the financial burden of these studies which can last between six to twelve months,” adds Max Fehlmann, President and Scientific Director of the IRCM. 

Chinese medical authorities have invited the IRCM researchers to join their teams. They will add isoquercetin to their therapeutic arsenal to counter the COVID-19 coronavirus, following the recommendations of the IRCM researchers. “Isoquercetin is a broad-spectrum antiviral and our research has shown that it can have beneficial effects against various viruses similar to COVID-19,” said Majambu Mbikay, Associate Researcher at the IRCM. The two groups are finalizing the clinical protocols that will be used.

“We believe that isoquercetin could improve the health of patients affected by the coronavirus,” added Michel Chrétien, Emeritus Research Professor at the IRCM and Emeritus Professor at the University of Montreal. “However, we remain cautiously optimistic as it is difficult to predict whether a new drug will have all the expected beneficial effects. Only a scientifically programmed clinical study can provide the answer.” 

The two IRCM colleagues, who have been collaborating for 35 years, have been evaluating the biological properties of isoquercetin for nearly ten years. With collaboration from the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg, they found in 2016 that isoquercetin had a potent anti-Ebola activity on mice, helping to prevent and cure the disease. The following year, the team further investigated isoquercetin against the ZIKA virus, and found similar positive effects. 

In recent weeks, the Montreal researchers have increased their exchanges with their Chinese colleagues and have agreed that isoquercetin is a valid solution to test against the current coronavirus crisis. The isoquercetin will be supplied by the Swiss pharmaceutical company Quercegen. A clinical trial protocol for treating up to a thousand patients has been developed with Jeremy Carver and Wendy Hill of the International Consortium on Antivirals (CITAV / ICAV) and medical authorities in the People’s Republic of China. This protocol has been submitted to the Chinese FDA for quick approval.

For over 50 years, the IRCM has been bringing together researchers and physicians to better understand the complexity of diseases to help develop innovative treatments for patients suffering from a variety of illnesses. “I’m pleased that the research we are conducting here on isoquercetin may contribute to the global fight against COVID-19,” concludes Max Fehlmann. 

About the Lazaridis Family Foundation
The Lazaridis Family Foundation is a Canadian registered charity. The Foundation is dedicated to supporting ground-breaking basic research at the highest levels as well as community-building philanthropy in the Quantum Valley in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. 

Media contact
Carolyne Lord, Vice President, Communications and Public Relations, IRCM
514 987-5535 | carolyne.lord@ircm.qc.ca