The Catalyst COVID-19 Fund | College of Arts

The Catalyst COVID-19 Fund

Posted on Friday, June 19th, 2020

The University of Guelph’s recent internal funding competition, the Catalyst COVID-19 Fund, benefited from a considerable boost from a College of Arts alumnus. This Fund was established to provide seed funding for the rapid development of research focused on contributing to the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic.  

The anonymous donor, who graduated several years ago with Bachelor of Arts Honours degree in European Studies, contacted the Director of the School of Languages and Literatures, Margot Irvine, to learn how his family could make a $10,000 gift on behalf of their foundation.  Margot suggested that he speak with Mary Walsh, Senior Development Manager, at the College of Arts, who explained that this gift could be matched by the University.

Presented with the variety of research projects that received funding, the donor chose to designate the gift to Molecular and Cellular Biology professor Wei Zhang’s project: Development of SARS-CoV-2 papain-like protease (PLpro) inhibitors. Dr. Zhang’s project will optimize, characterize and validate two FDA-approved drugs as potential inhibitors for SARS-CoV-2 PLpro and will rapidly develop these compounds as early-phase therapeutic molecules to treat COVID-19 patients. Based on his track-record in protease structure-function studies and antiviral inhibitor development, Dr. Zhang’s lab is primed to develop these compounds as early-phase therapeutic molecules to treat COVID-19 patients. This is cutting-edge and urgently necessary research.

Professor Irvine was delighted when “an alumnus whom we saw graduate not too long ago reached out in a leadership position to support research at the University of Guelph.” Associate Dean, Research & Graduate Studies, Andrew Bailey, expressed his enthusiasm for the connection, which links the philanthropic intention of a College of Arts alumnus with a researcher at the College of Biological Sciences: “this gift will help to contribute to global efforts against COVID-19.”