TORONTO — The dean of a newly launched pandemic institute at the University of Toronto says the initiative will help bring together the school's vast resources to effectively research and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Institute for Pandemics will study the impact of the coronavirus as well as the ensuing recovery efforts, while also helping to prepare for future pandemics, Adalsteinn Brown said.
The institute will "make sure that we respond faster, more effectively and recover more quickly and equitably," said Brown, who added that better research now will help with preparedness down the road.
"You need to have folks doing the work that nobody sees as important yet."
Brown said around two dozen faculty members will research various topics including the effect of limited capacity at hospitals, the pandemic's effect on widening social inequalities, and the specific impact of the coronavirus on Black communities.
He said U of T is in a particularly strong position because it has depth in multiple fields including epidemiology, acute care and social work, allowing the school to "bring together responses and experts who can actually provide more of a comprehensive picture and approach."
"To be able to bring all of these people on a really regular basis will really help grapple with how we have a comprehensive ability to deal with pandemics," said Brown.
The school also said in a statement that academic bodies have the ability to move quicker than the government and are politically neutral, meaning they can help speed up responses to the pandemic.
The Institute for Pandemics will also help Canada's capacity to model the pandemic, which will assist public health workforces with responding to the ongoing spread of COVID-19, the statement said.
Dr. David Fisman, an infectious disease physician and former Ontario public health official, said the institute will help bridge the gap between people in government and the sciences.
“We need people in government who know infectious diseases and know how to use the information they’re given to create change," Fisman said in a statement.
"I remember how terrible the disconnect between science and government was during the SARS pandemic. We're in a much better place than we were, but we've got a ways to go.”
The institute was launched Wednesday after months of planning and a $1 million donation from the Vohra Miller Foundation.
Brown said pandemic research is often underfunded, and the additional investment will help Canada deal with the next worldwide pandemic.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 19, 2020.
Salmaan Farooqui, The Canadian Press