Despite its closure on March 24, the campus is well and alive, and responding to new developments since the province’s first presumptive case of COVID-19 on March 12.
Here is a recap of what has transpired on campus since it closed.
The University of Saskatchewan teams up with the Saskatchewan Health Authority
On April 23, the University of Saskatchewan’s Global Institute for Food Security transferred its KingFisher™ Flex Purification System to the Royal University Hospital in order to help with running more COVID-19 tests.
The lab instrument can extract and purify DNA, RNA, protein and cells from samples, making it a multifaceted tool for virus and protein analysis. GIFS has also donated tools for research and diagnostic testing such as disposable tip combs and microplates to the Saskatchewan Health Authority.
Engineers hard at work designing reusable N95 masks
A team from the College of Engineering has also risen to fight against the virus. They are designing a reusable and sanitizable N95 mask to help doctors and nurses treating COVID-19 patients. GIFS is also assisting in this project by offering 3D-printing materials and its laboratory.
The engineering team consists of professor and co-ordinator James Johnston, graduate students Erik Olson, Alvaro Espinosa and Pablo Franco, College of Engineering staff member Rob Peace, and GIFS’ research engineer Grant Tingstad. They are testing different filter materials like vacuum filters and air purifiers, and around 60 masks per day can be manufactured using the U of S’s 3D printers once the design is approved.
Nursing students able to obtain Emergency Practicing license despite late fee
On April 2, nursing students were shocked after receiving a fee assessment caused by a “technical oversight.” Reportedly, the additional fees totaled to more than $200,000 from courses taken from Spring 2019 to Winter 2020.
For a short time, students’ accounts were on hold until the fees were paid, rendering them unable to register for classes or access their transcripts. Graduating students were worried because without their transcripts, they cannot obtain an Emergency Practicing license to aid during the pandemic. Due to these concerns, nursing students started a petition against these additional fees.
The College of Nursing has announced since then that Saskatchewan Registered Nurses Association will still receive graduates’ transcripts regardless. The holds on students’ accounts were also removed and the college will have “access to emergency funding” to help students. Although the holds on students’ accounts will be reinstated in June, Russell Isinger, university registrar, confirms that graduating students will still be able to request a removal of the holds in order to obtain their transcripts.
Animal trials for VIDO-InterVAC’s COVID-19 vaccine
Being the first lab in Canada to isolate the virus from a sample, mid-March the U of S Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization-International Vaccine Centre progressed to animal trials for the vaccine against the novel coronavirus. It is one of the few labs in the world to have a candidate vaccine for SARS-CoV-2.
VIDO-InterVAC and the National Research Council of Canada are now working together to advance the vaccine’s development. The NRC is exploring the use of HEK293 mammalian cells to produce the vaccine antigen efficiently for pre-clinical and clinical studies. After animal trials, they will move on to human test subjects. Human trials are set to take place in the fall.
Fundraiser for La Loche goes over its goal
The Saskatchewan Medical Association and the Student Medical Society of Saskatchewan are fundraising for people affected by COVID-19 in La Loche and the surrounding area. The initial goal was to raise $15,000, but the fundraiser reached $10,000 within 24 hours. Since its start on May 6, the fundraiser has reached over $41,000 as of May 11.
La Loche, among other communities in the surrounding area, is suffering from an outbreak of COVID-19. The money raised was used to buy supplies for people in the affected communities as they practice physical distancing. The fundraiser ended on May 12 and the supplies were transported to the communities on May 15 and 16.
J.C. Balicanta Narag | Editor-in-Chief
Graphic: Mỹ Anh Phan | Design Editor