Heart Institute VP of Research Awarded Over $1.1 Million for COVID-19 Research

June 25, 2020

Dr. Peter Liu, the University of Ottawa Heart Institute’s chief scientific officer and vice president of research, is receiving upwards of $1.1 million ($1,176,019) in support through the COVID-19 May 2020 Rapid Research Funding Opportunity.

The Government of Canada is providing the funding for this research through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and the International Development Research Centre (IDRC). This funding opportunity is a commitment to making investments that advance medical research and develop tools and resources to combat COVID-19.

As principal investigator, Dr. Liu will spearhead an important research project alongside colleagues at the UOHI, in Canada, and internationally. Learn more about the project below.

About the Project

Improving Outcomes in Individuals with COVID-19 with Renin-Angiotensin System Inhibition: The COVID-RASi Trial.

Cardiovascular disease is not only the number one killer chronically but is also the leading killer in COVID-19. Elderly patients with previous heart attack or stroke, or hypertension or diabetes, have high risk of getting infected. They also suffer three to five times the chance of dying compared to other infected patients. A clue as to why this is may lie in a group of commonly used medicines, called renin-angiotensin system (RAS) inhibitors, including angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors and angiotensin receptor blocks (ARBs), which are usually extremely protective for cardiovascular patients. However, the medications have stirred up some controversy because they are suspected to increase the levels of ACE2 in the body, also part of the RAS, which acts as the receptor for the virus, or the doorway for virus to enter the body. Scientists are now questioning the safe use of these agents, and this has become a source of fear for both patients and physicians alike.

In a recent study, Dr. Liu and international colleagues analyzed data from Wuhan, China, and found these agents to be extremely protective. This finding was also replicated in another study examining patients in Europe and America. However, this retrospective data can be “fraught with hidden biases,” according to Liu.

Therefore, as Dr. Liu puts it, “The world desperately needs a proper forward-looking trial to evaluate these agents in COVID-19. Together with our Canadian and international partners experienced in COVID-19 research, we are starting this large trial to evaluate whether adding ACE inhibitors, or ARBs, compared to no added treatment in high risk COVID-19 patients, can decrease the chance of dying, requiring ventilators or ICU. A positive trial showing benefit will potentially save many lives, using a very simple and cheap set of medications. Even if we found the medications to be safe, it will be very reassuring for millions of patients.  We want to answer this question with urgency to benefit Canadians and cardiovascular patients worldwide in this COVID-19 era.”

To learn more, please read the complete announcement.

Media Contact

Leigh B. Morris
Communications Officer
University of Ottawa Heart Institute