Category Archives: COVID-19

Posts and information on COVID-19 for Meakins-Christie, RECRU, and RESP members.

Larry Lands and Laurent Pharmaceuticles to begin a clinical trial on COVID-19 treatment with LAU-7b, a pro-resolving drug with potential antiviral properties against coronavirus

LAU-7b clinical trial on COVID-19 treatment

The RI-MUHC is currently enrolling patients in RESOLUTION, a clinical trial of LAU-7b for the treatment of hospitalized COVID-19 patients. The drug acts on lung inflammation and showed potent antiviral effects in-vitro against SARS-CoV-2. Results from previous studies in adult CF patients showed an important reduction of key pro-inflammatory biomarkers at the onset of a pulmonary exacerbation episodes, suggestive of a protective effect of the drug on the lungs.

Read more here:

Phase 2 clinical study with LAU-7b

An original post from April 2020 described the start of the clinical trial:

Laurent Pharmaceuticals, a McGill spinoff, will run a Phase 2 clinical study with LAU-7b, a pro-resolving drug with potential antiviral properties against coronavirus.

Larry Lands is the Chief Medical Advisor for Laurent Pharmaceuticals. Laurent Pharmaceuticals Inc. is planning to test its lead drug LAU-7b in patients with COVID-19 disease. LAU-7b was recently identified as a potential anti-viral therapeutic option for COVID-19 during a drug-library screening effort.

The Research Institute of the MUHC is presently enrolling participants in the study, called RESOLUTION. LAU-7b is a novel oral form of a drug called fenretinide, which inhibits the inflammatory reaction of the body to the virus. This study could lead to improved treatments for hospitalized COVID-19 patients who are at higher risk of developing complications.

“Thanks to its inflammation-controlling properties, low-dose fenretinide triggers a natural mechanism – the body’s own resolution of the inflammation process – which keeps the inflammatory response under control without suppressing its protective immune role.”

Dr. Larry Lands

Read more here:

McGill spinoff Laurent Pharmaceuticals to begin clinical trial on COVID-19 treatment. Company to run a Phase 2 clinical study with LAU-7b, a pro-resolving drug with potential antiviral properties against coronavirus. By Junji Nishihata. McGill Reporter. April 11, 2020.

Dr. Bruce Mazer, Associate Scientific Director of the COVID-19 Immunity Taskforce, on understanding COVID-19 immunity.

Decoding Immunity to COVID-19

This week on Health Matters, Centre universitaire de santé McGill – McGill University Health Centre physician and researcher, Dr. Bruce Mazer discusses findings and unanswered questions about decoding immunity to COVID-19 and his role in the COVID-19 Immunity Task Force.

Dr. Mazer, Associate Scientific Director of the Taskforce, sums up the goal of their work as: to understand the prevalence of the virus in the community at large, and to learn about how the body responds to the virus. Completed studies in this area have revealed the following:

“We know that the prevalence of the antibodies in the population of healthy blood donors is between 0.7% and 1.0% of the population, as high as 2.9% in certain areas of Quebec and Ontario.”

Dr. Bruce Mazer

Although these numbers indicate a lack of herd immunity, he feels it is more important to understand how to treat individuals who are most at risk, to develop a vaccine, and to find answers to some of their yet-to-be-answered questions. Finding answers to questions such as why some people are more affected by this virus than others, why some people are more affected by previous viruses but not this one, and how long the antibodies created by vaccination will last in the body, would go a long way in decoding immunity to COVID-19.

Listen to Dr. Mazer’s interview by Julie Quenneville on:

Dr. Nicole Ezer of the RI-MUHC's RESP Program on what doctors have learned about treating patients with COVID-19.

Treatments for COVID-19

Since the spring physicians have been discovering optimal treatments for COVID-19 symptoms. Dr. Nicole Ezer, a researcher with the RI-MUHC’s RESP Program, was interviewed on this subject on CJAD. Dr. Ezer explained:

Initially it was very challenging to know how to treat patients appropriately, in particular patients who presented in the emergency room and required lots of oxygen.

Dr. Nicole Ezer

Since the spring the medical community has learned a lot about this virus, thanks in part to the many publications that have come out.

The names of medications which have been found best to help hospitalized patients include the steroid dexamethasone and the antiviral remdesivir. These two medications have been very helpful in not only reducing the amount of time patients spend in hospital, but also the number of deaths caused by this virus. These were important discoveries for the medical community.

The focus remains on finding treatments to help patients with less severe symptoms. To this end, all residents of Quebec experiencing milder COVID-19 symptoms are encouraged to take part in an ongoing study at the MUHC called No in-person visits are required. After acceptance into the trial participants will receive their medication by mail. All communications are done remotely. This is one way we can all be involved in the hunt for treatments for COVID-19.

Listen to Dr. Ezer’s interview

What have doctors learned about treating COVID-19 patients? on the Aaron Rand Show, CJAD.

Innate disease tolerance and the SARS CoV-2 virus

Innate Disease Tolerance and COVID-19

Dr. Maziar Divangahi, Associate Director of RI-MUHC’s Meakins-Christie Laboratories, is an expert on tuberculosis and well known in the field of innate disease tolerance. In a recent interview with Markham Heid of, Dr. Divangahi confirms that tuberculosis is one of the world’s deadliest infectious diseases. Nevertheless, a great number of people who are infected with the bacteria do not exhibit any symptoms. They have developed an innate disease tolerance for the virus. Could we teach our bodies innate disease tolerance towards the SARS CoV-2 virus?

Dr. Divangahi explains how the body of some people reacts when the tuberculosis virus reaches their lower airways:

“Either the bacteria will be eliminated during the early phase of the infection, or the host will wall off (the virus) by forming granulomas.”

“We’ve developed very successful mechanisms that allow us to live with (this virus).”

“Rather than trying to eliminate the bug, we basically keep it in check.”

The elimination of the SARS CoV-2 virus would be ideal, however, the interview with Dr. Divangahi suggests that there may be acceptable alternatives.

Read the full interview:

Some People’s Bodies Learn to Live With Covid-19. By. Markham Heid. Sept 30, 2020.

Flu Vaccines May Inhibit COVID-19

Preliminary and not-yet-peer-reviewed studies suggest that flu vaccines may inhibit COVID-19 ‘s effect on the body. Dr. Maziar Divangahi, Associate Director of the RI-MUHC’s Meakins-Christie Laboratories, cautions against drawing the conclusion that flu vaccines prevent or diminish the effects of COVID-19 on the body. Much larger studies are required.

Numerous studies are taking place around the world to test the desired conclusion that flu vaccines do in fact inhibit COVID-19, but results that merely find correlations between behaviors and outcomes cannot establish cause and effect.

The full story can be read here: 

A Flu Shot Might Reduce Coronavirus Infections, Early Research Suggests. American Scientific. By Melinda Wenner Moyer. Oct 28, 2020

Dr. Nicole Ezer of the RI-MUHC's RESP Program is researching treatment options for COVID-19 in its early stages with mild symptoms.

Treatment Options for COVID-19

Dr. Nicole Ezer, of the RI-MUHC’s RESP Program, is looking for treatment options for COVID-19. Dr. Ezer is the lead researcher in the study, an RI-MUHC trial that began in September 2020. The objective of the study is to find a medication that will keep COVID-19 patients at home longer, or ideally, eliminate the need for hospitalization completely.

Presently, Dr. Ezer is testing the efficiency of ciclesonide, an inhaled and nasal steroid drug currently used for asthma and nasal rhinitis, as one of the treatment options for COVID-19 in its early stages, or for patients with milder symptoms.

Dr. Ezer believes we will never be completely free of COVID-19, as vaccines are never 100% effective. Therefore it is important to have treatment options available, and to keep patients out of hospital whenever possible.

Dr. Ezer was interviewed about her research – the full story can be read here:

Steroids, inhalers and ventilators: What Quebec doctors are learning about COVID-19. CBC News. By Leah Hendry, Benjamin Shingler. Oct 27, 2020.

COVID-19 testing strategy shortens isolation time for essential health care workers. Dr. Benjamin Smith MI4 COVID-19 funded project at the RI-MUHC

COVID-19 testing shortens isolation time

We all know that 14 days of self-isolation is mandatory following exposure to the coronavirus, and this is a big problem when frontline health care workers come in close contact with infected patients. To avoid a shortage of essential medical staff, MI4 scientist Dr. Benjamin Smith is studying whether this isolation period could be shortened by as much as half. In this ongoing study, he is working with health care workers exposed to the coronavirus to find out. Each subject receives a COVID-19 test on days 7, 9, 10 and 14 after being exposed to determine how soon the virus can be detected. Preliminary results show that if the subject is going to develop COVID-19, the virus is usually detectable by day 7. Though further study is required to confirm this finding, it signals that, with the right testing strategy, isolation for health care workers may indeed be able to be reduced by half.

Dr. Smith is now expanding his study to confirm these preliminary results. The team is enrolling health care workers in the Lanaudière region and will now include family members and caregivers exposed to the coronavirus when caring for loved ones.

Julie Quenneville, President of the McGill University Health Centre Foundation, expresses her thanks for donations made to the MUHC Foundation and offers insight into the impact of the donations.

Where to listen:

Dr. Nicole Ezer discusses COVID-19 treatment options on Radio-Canada October 8, 2020

COVID-19 Treatment Options

Dr. Nicole Ezer, of the RI-MUHC’s RESP Program, discusses COVID-19 treatment options with Claude Bernatchez of Radio-Canada’s Première Heure program.

Dr. Ezer explains how the virus causes uncontrolled inflammation in the body, which may result in serious respiratory issues. The steroid dexamethasone reduces inflammation and is currently given to hospitalized patients. Use of this steroid is favorable as it is not expensive and it has been used in the treatment of other other medical conditions for years. Thus, it is already known to physicians and specialists and has been is backed by numerous studies. Unfortunately, steroids used at such high doses as is needed to combat COVID-19 may cause other illnesses, such as diabetes; therefore, this treatment is only available to individuals who are hospitalized.

A second COVID-19 treatment option is antiviral medications, which slow the replication of the virus. Antivirals are being prescribed early in the COVID-19 diagnosis, with the intent of avoiding a future hospitalization of the patient.

Treatment with antibodies would boost the immune system and help the body to fight off the virus. Additional research could be done to determine the stage at which this type of treatment would have the greatest effect. At this point in time, the use of antibodies for treatment of COVID-19 has not been approved in Canada.

Dr. Ezer concludes by emphasizing the need for an effective and inexpensive treatment for COVID-19. A vaccine is needed, but vaccines are not always 100% effective. The virus will always be with us, and there will be many people worldwide who will catch it. We need to discover additional affordable COVID-19 treatment options.

Dr. Ezer’s interview on Radio-Canada can be heard here:

Etat des lieux des traitements contre la COVID-19 avec Dr. Nicole Ezer. Radio-Canada. Oct 8, 2020.

Narrow focus on vaccines COVID-19 Jean Bourbeau clinical trial

Narrow focus on COVID vaccines

Dr. Jean Bourbeau contributed to an article in The Star on September 29, 2020. He highlights how our narrow focus on vaccines during the COVID-19 pandemic is a risk we cannot afford. Combating this virus requires an array of good treatments, based on good science (randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trials). This include antivirals, plasma trials, corticosteroids, repurposing of old drugs to address the virus, in addition to vaccines. Dr. Bourbeau is working on a Phase III clinical trial of a repurposed generic drug developed by Pulmonem, a Canadian biotech start-up, which could provide a quick, safe and cost-effective treatment for COVID-19.

Read the article here:

Narrow focus on vaccines is a risk we can’t afford. The Star. by Dr. Jean Bourbeau. Sept 29, 2020.

Learn more about Dr. Bourbeau’s Phase III clinical trial:

Old drug, new therapy: RI-MUHC-sponsored phase III clinical trial ready to test repurposed dapsone to tone down lung inflammation caused by COVID-19. RI-MUHC News. Sept 2, 2020.

RI-MUHC clinical trial COVID-19: clinical trial of ciclesonide to possibly prevent mild cases of COVID-19 from worsening

Ciclesonide Clinical Trial for COVID-19

Led by Dr. Nicole Ezer, a team of RI-MUHC researchers have initiated a clinical trial of ciclesonide to possibly prevent mild cases of COVID-19 from worsening.

Ciclesonide is an inhaled and nasal steroid drug currently used for asthma and nasal rhinitis. Laboratory studies have already shown that treatment with ciclesonide can decrease viral replication of SARS-Cov2, the virus responsible for the disease. This placebo-controlled randomized trial will confirm if the administration of inhaled and nasal ciclesonide can reduce the severity of respiratory symptoms among mild cases of COVID-19 and potentially avoid the need for hospitalization and oxygen.

Diagnosed with COVID? Contain COVID at the source. Protect your lungs! Register for a clinical trial of inhaled ciclesonide:

To learn more about the study:
please visit or email

“We know the COVID-19 virus starts by multiplying in the nose and progresses downwards to the lower parts of the airways and lungs. We hope that targeting the site of viral replication with inhaled and nasal ciclesonide will reduce early viral replication and decrease severity of COVID-19 illness,”

– Nicole Ezer

Team Members

  • Nicole Ezer, Respirologist, MD, MPH
  • James Martin, Respirologist, MD, Dsc
  • Todd Lee, Infectious Diseases, MD Msc
  • Emily Macdonald, Internal Medicine, MD, Msc
  • Susan Bartlett, Clinical Psychologist, Senior Scientist
  • Andrea Benedetti, Epidemiology and Biostatistics PHD
  • Annie-Claude Jalbert, MD
  • Rola Hamed, MsC
  • Ankita Ghatak, MSc Candidate
  • Ben Smith, Respirologist, MD, Msc

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