Optimizing a Cost-efficient and Scalable COVID‑19 Early Warning System at a Strategic Canadian Land Entry Point

Tong, Yufeng | $500,000

Ontario University of Windsor 2021 CIHR Operating Grant

Windsor-Essex sits at one of the busiest border crossings between the USA and Canada and is located at the heart of intensive year-round agricultural operations with a high concentration of migrant workers who arrive seasonally from Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean. Transmission resulting from travel makes this region particularly susceptible to the introduction of novel coronavirus variants. In Windsor-Essex, students at the University of Windsor and St. Clair College are highly embedded into this community, with most living and working off-campus. The asymptomatic young population is of particular concern for the spread of the variants. This proposal aims to optimize a surveillance system, combining wastewater testing and a rapid saliva-based RNA-extraction-free testing program. The combined use of these COVID‑19 detection methods enables the early surveillance and rapid detection of COVID‑19 to prevent the spread of disease. Beginning with our students on the University of Windsor and St. Clair College campuses, we will provide screening for a population whose future was most impacted by this pandemic. They are also a keen and educated population who will provide valuable input into the process. Our team also includes an industrial partner specialized in diagnostic equipment design and manufacturing, which will help in automation and cost reduction, standard compliance of the testing methods. We also partnered with WE-SPARK Health Institute to ensure the proper digital record of COVID status and efficient knowledge translation. In summary, this proposal will begin the process of enabling a safe return to the campus for our young generation, which is critical for a sustainable society. Collectively, this work will move the science and technology forward to rapidly detect COVID‑19 and begin monitoring for COVID‑19 in a strategic Canadian land entry point. This multidisciplinary team in Windsor-Essex is uniquely positioned to tackle these goals.

With funding from the Government of Canada

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