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Pandemic researchers from around the world meeting in Toronto

Toronto, June 27, 2011

Dr. John Marshall Dr. John Marshall

By Leslie Shepherd

More than 100 researchers, clinicians, government officials and funding agency representatives from around the world will gather in Toronto this week to attend the first international conference on pandemic research preparedness.

The conference is being organized by the International Forum for Acute Care Trialists (InFACT), an international organization of critical care researchers, which was formed during the H1N1 pandemic to find ways to conduct high-quality, globally collaborative research in real time as the next pandemic unfolds.

It will take place today through Wednesday at the Keenan Research Centre of the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute of St. Michael’s Hospital, where the chair of InFACT, Dr. John Marshall is director of research for critical care.

The purpose of the conference is to develop the necessary infrastructure to rapidly begin and conduct clinical research involving the most severely ill patients during a future pandemic.

“Our experience with H1N1 in 2009, and with SARS five years earlier, left us convinced that to respond adequately to the next pandemic, to gather information quickly and conduct high quality research, we must have the bulk of the work done in advance, “ Dr. Marshall said.

That means designing research studies in advance, obtaining ethics and regulatory approval and lining up funding.

Since InFACT was launched in 2009, it has harmonized databases to create a global registry of critically ill patients with H1N1 and taken steps to develop a “biobank,” a repository for samples of blood and other material taken from H1N1-infected people that would allow for studies of genetic susceptibility.