These are certainly unprecedented times. It is without question that the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted, and will continue to impact, our lives in all respects for the foreseeable future. With our once bustling universities now shuttered, we have quickly adapted to online we have quickly adapted to online technologies to deliver education, while also coping with other challenges brought about by the pandemic including caring for COVID-19 infected family members, navigating stay-at-home restrictions, dealing with loss of employment and homeschooling children.
Lab-based and clinical research, other than COVID-19 research, has essentially stopped in many places, which is impacting trainees and research staff as there is only so much that can be done remotely. I cannot say enough positive things about frontline health care workers, who put themselves at risk day in and day out to provide the best care for their patients.
As we know, currently there are no vaccine or proven drug therapies for COVID-19, which underscores the need for pharmacologists, both basic and clinical, to address key questions pertaining to COVID-19 treatment and prevention. For example, is it possible to safely repurpose existing medications like chloroquine, hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin or lopinavir/ ritonavir for prophylaxis and/or treatment of COVID-19? Do these drugs work for COVID-19? Which work best and in whom?
The good news is that there are well over 100 active interventional clinical trials (clinicaltrials.gov, accessed April 15, 2020) investigating various small molecule
therapies (e.g., chloroquine, hydrochloroquine, azithromycin, corticosteroids, losartan, remdesivir and lopinavir/ritonavir, to name a few) as well IL-6 antagonist biologics (sarilumab, tocilizumab, clazakizumab). In the coming weeks there is great hope the clinical trial results will begin to provide the urgently needed evidence upon which to base sound pharmacological treatment decisions for COVID-19.
While the COVID-19 pandemic dashed our planned annual conference in Ottawa, the Board of Directors and the Scientific Program Committee have been working behind the scenes to develop alternative programing in the form of a virtual conference. This will be a scaled-back version of our regular conference and will include ten-minute oral platform and three-minute thesis style presentation competitions for trainees, CSPT award recipient research presentations and our annual general meeting.
The virtual conference will take place over three days (June 10, 11, 12) for two hours each day, at times to be announced shortly. We were thrilled to have received 57 abstract submissions, which is among the highest ever. Stay tuned to your email and the CSPT website (pharmacologycanada.org) for more details in the coming weeks. We hope you will be able to attend one or more of the virtual sessions.
My thoughts and best wishes go out to you in these challenging times. Stay safe.
Kerry Goralski, PhD
President, Canadian Society of Pharmacology and Therapeutics