Inside the CBR and LSI – basic scientists, vendors and staff band together to support health care workers on the front lines of COVID-19

Originally posted on the LSI Community Connector News Bulletin Vol. 1.

By Dr. Edward Conway, Centre for Blood Research Director

The past couple of weeks has seen most of us in the CBR and the LSI rapidly curtailing research activities. This is in contrast to what’s happening in the provincial hospitals, where frontline staff are rapidly gearing up for the major challenges that they are likely to face in the coming days & weeks.

Among their many needs to safely care for COVID-19-infected patients are personal protective equipment (PPE), which includes gloves, gowns, masks, and eye/face guards. Meeting requirements under normal circumstances is complex and difficult enough; but with the COVID-19 pandemic, the demands are expected to be extraordinarily high, world-wide competition for resources are fierce, and current inventories will likely become depleted before “normalcy” is achieved.

Recognizing the gap and the fact that many research labs are going to be dormant for a while, Simon Pimstone (Xenon Pharmaceuticals) and Wendy Hurlburt (LifeSciences BC) spearheaded a roundup of available PPE from local biotech and academic labs, so that these could be rapidly distributed to the hospitals when needed. The response has been overwhelming and heartwarming. Among the many contributing biotech and research enterprises, the LSI stepped up in a huge way.

Over 400 boxes of gloves (that’s about 60,000 gloves!), close to 1000 surgical and N95 masks, and numerous gowns and eye coverings, were donated by LSI members.

On Tuesday, March 25, Rod Hanning, Leith Znaimer and Ivona Kozieradzki led the charge, racing through all the LSI labs, moving donated goods to the shipping docks where Rod and Leith packed it all up… three overflowing pallets-worth. Sylvia Ho was active behind the scenes, updating the dynamically growing list of items, relaying clues to Ivona, as to locations of the sometimes-hidden caches. William Burrows (LifeSciences BC) was in charge of logistics for the entire project, and arranged for pickup and sorting at Xenon Pharmaceutical, for sorting and eventual distribution pending direction from the province and hospitals.

Once again, the LSI community of givers has shown that it can work together. We will make it past this obstacle and be better for it.