The COVID-19 Immunity Task Force Secretariat is housed at McGill University’s School of Population and Global Health, led by Dr. Timothy Evans, and supported for two years by funds from Health Canada. The secretariat will be staffed to equip it to deliver effectively on its core functions. The secretariat will welcome staff from beyond McGill University to take on specific technical roles. Other centres designated by the Board to lead on specific study questions will be financed by Health Canada and supported as required in their roles by the Task Force Secretariat.
- Develop the Task Force science strategy for discussion and approval by the Leadership Group
- Establish modus operandi for the implementation of the science strategy, including but not limited to:
- Reaching out directly with Health Canada/PHAC to major partners (e.g. Provincial/Territorial ministries/agencies) for collaborative work to answer priority questions of shared interest
- Developing calls to the research community for proposals to address priority questions
- Conducting fair, rapid and transparent review of proposals for scientific rigour and relevance
- Proposing top proposals to the Leadership Group for its approval
- Supporting any Task Force study centres designated by the Leadership Group to implement specific study questions
- Work closely with PHAC/NML, Health Canada regulatory to understand market supply for SARS-CoV-2 diagnostic tests and serological assays: develop pooled pro-Canadian procurement mechanisms to negotiate price on behalf of implementing study sites and avoid supply short-falls
- Support study implementers across a core set of common logistical challenges related to identification of existing biobanks and creation of new biobanks, laboratory coordination, supplies, common questionnaire elements, data management, data structures, data models, and data transfers
- In consultation with the Leadership Group, agree to undertake specific supplementary studies to develop insights into fundamental issues related to serologic testing and/or SARS-CoV-2 immunity
- Working closely with Health Canada/ PHAC to review project proposals for study implementers to ensure requisite alignment and timely distribution of funds
- Explore and develop collaborations where appropriate with other countries and international agencies involved in serologic surveys and studies to understand immunity related to SARS-CoV-2
- Provide regular scientific updates on the state of serologic testing, results from other studies, and the evolving understanding of immunity related to SARS-CoV-2
- Foster analysis and synthesis of results to advise decision-makers on implications for response strategies and optimal further deployment of serologic tests
- Develop a vital communications capacity for the Task Force that facilitates communication across study investigators and teams, key partners, and the public as appropriate, in Canada’s two official languages
- Act as secretariat to the Leadership Group in the preparation of its meetings (agenda, documents, minutes, and logistics)
Director and Associate Dean, School of Population and Global Health, Faculty of Medicine, McGill University
Tim joined McGill University in September 2019, as the Inaugural Director and Associate Dean of the School of Population and Global Health (SPGH) in the Faculty of Medicine and Associate Vice-Principal (Global Policy and Innovation). He joins McGill after a 6 year tenure as the Senior Director of the Health, Nutrition and Population Global Practice at the World Bank Group. From 2010 to 2013, Tim was Dean of the James P. Grant School of Public Health at BRAC University in Dhaka, Bangladesh, and Senior Advisor to the BRAC Health Program. From 2003 to 2010, he was Assistant Director General at the World Health Organization (WHO). Prior to this, he served as Director of the Health Equity Theme at the Rockefeller Foundation. Earlier in his career, he was an attending physician of internal medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and was Assistant Professor in International Health Economics at the Harvard School of Public Health. Tim has been at the forefront of advancing global health equity and strengthening health systems delivery for more than 20 years. At WHO, he led the Commission on Social Determinants of Health and oversaw the production of the annual World Health Report. He has been a co-founder of many partnerships including the Global Alliance on Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI) as well as efforts to increase access to HIV treatment for mothers and innovative approaches to training community-based midwives in Bangladesh. Tim received his Medical Degree from McMaster University in Canada and was a Research and Internal Medicine Resident at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. He earned a D.Phil. in Agricultural Economics from University of Oxford, where he was a Rhodes Scholar.
Associate Scientific Directors
Associate Scientific Director (Strategy)
Dr. Bruce Mazer is a graduate of McGill’s Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences and has been a faculty member in the Department of Pediatrics since 1991. He completed his pediatric training at the Montreal Children’s Hospital (MCH), followed by a clinical and research fellowship in allergy and clinical immunology at the University of Colorado. From 2000 to 2015, he served as Division Head of Allergy and Immunology at the MCH. In 2015, he was appointed Head of Child Health Research at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC). In October 2016, he became Interim Executive Director and Chief Scientific Officer of the RI-MUHC, a role he held until July 2020. Dr. Mazer’s research focuses on the role of B-cells in regulating inflammation in allergic diseases and antibody responses in immune-deficient patients. He has published over 120 papers, and his work has been funded by several major organizations, including the Fonds de Recherche du Québec and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).
Associate Scientific Director (Management)
Dr. Olivia Oxlade is an epidemiologist who completed her Master of Science degree at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and her PhD in epidemiology at McGill University. She completed her postdoctoral fellowship at the Harvard School of Public Health. Dr. Oxlade’s research focuses on global health and tuberculosis (TB). From 2015 until now, Dr. Oxlade has worked at the RI-MUHC, where she served as an Associate Director of the McGill International TB Centre and as Managing Director of the WHO Collaborating Centre for TB Research. Over the past decade she has managed many projects funded by different organizations including USAID, WHO, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, CIHR and the Public Health Agency of Canada. Most recently, she provided oversight to a large CIHR-funded research program focused on TB prevention at the RI-MUHC and managed a multi-centre international trial with sites in Africa, Asia, Brazil, and Canada.
Matthew Pellan Cheng
Scientific Program Manager, Diagnostics/Testing
Dr. Cheng obtained his medical degree from McGill University in 2011. He completed his residency in internal medicine at the University of British Columbia, followed by a combined fellowship in infectious diseases and medical microbiology at McGill University. He completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the Harvard Medical School-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital before establishing his clinical research program at the McGill University Health Centre.
Dr. Cheng’s research interests include treating patients with potentially lethal infectious diseases, such as those with severe manifestations of sepsis, bloodstream infections, and opportunistic infections in immunocompromised hosts. His research program focuses on improving outcomes in these conditions by developing novel treatment and diagnostic strategies. His research program is funded by research operating grants from the US National Institutes of Health, the Canadian Institutes for Health Research, and the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council. Dr. Cheng has been the recipient of numerous awards including fellowship grants from the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, the Association of Medical Microbiologists and Infectious Diseases Specialists of Canada, and the Fonds de Recherche Santé Quebec. He was also the recipient of the prestigious Terry Fox Humanitarian Award.
Dr. Jesse Papenburg is an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics and an Associate Member of the Department of Epidemiology, Biostatistics and Occupational Health at McGill University. He practices pediatric Infectious Diseases and Medical Microbiology at the Montreal Children’s Hospital of the McGill University Health Centre.
Dr. Papenburg obtained his medical degree from McGill University and completed residency and subspecialty training at the Montreal Children’s Hospital. He then completed a research fellowship on the molecular virology of RNA respiratory viruses at Laval University and a MSc in epidemiology at McGill. As a clinician scientist, Dr. Papenburg’s research is on the epidemiology of viral respiratory infections, with a focus on diagnostics to improve treatment and outcomes.
Over the past decade, his multicentred projects have been funded by national, provincial, university and industry grants and endorsed by Canadian research networks. He actively participates in translating his research activities into national and provincial practice guidelines on RSV immunoprophylaxis and influenza antiviral treatment. Since 2019, Dr. Papenburg is also a voting member of the National Advisory Committee on Immunization, developing vaccine recommendations in Canada. Most recently, he has acted as a consultant for WHO, PHAC and INESSS clinical management guidelines for COVID-19.
Dr. Cedric Yansouni is an Infectious Diseases physician and a Medical Microbiologist at the McGill University Health Centre in Montreal, where he serves as Associate Director of the J.D. MacLean Centre for Tropical Diseases. His research is focused on informing policy on diagnostic tools for infections in low-resource and remote settings, including in Northern Indigenous communities in Canada. This is done through the development and field validation of diagnostics, implementation research, and work at the regulatory and policy level. He has served as Technical Adviser to the World Health Organization (WHO) for prequalification of diagnostics and holds a Chercheur-boursier clinicien Career Award from the FRQS.
Scientific Program Manager, Data Management/Analytics
Scientific Program Manager, Epidemiology/Methods
Chief Administrative Officer
Ms. Caroline Phaneuf holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Concordia University with a double major in journalism and political science as well as a master’s degree in political science from McGill University. With over 20 years’ experience in communications, marketing, public relations, and broadcast journalism, Ms. Phaneuf has worked for companies, public organizations, and foundations in a variety of industries. She also brings significant experience in health care to her new role. Ms. Phaneuf began her career as a journalist in radio and TV, then went on to work in both external and internal communications, leading corporate affairs and communications teams. These positions leveraged her strengths in strategic communications planning, crisis management, multiple stakeholder relations, media relations, change management communications, and employee engagement.
Senior Awards Officer
Mr. David Nguyen comes to the COVID-19 Immunity Task Force from McGill University, where he had been since 2010 when he joined the McGill University’s Office of the Vice-Principal (Research and Innovation). Mr. Nguyen held the role of Senior Grants and Agreements Officer in the Office of Sponsored Research and, most recently, the role of Technology Transfer Manager in the Office of Innovation and Partnerships.
Mr. Nguyen had the unique opportunity to earn his Master of Science degree from Concordia University thanks to a fruitful collaboration between his supervisor and FPInnovations. Funded by Genome Quebec and Genome Canada, he spent two years performing research for FPInnovations that also went towards his thesis. Upon completing his Masters, he was offered the opportunity to stay on with FPInnovations which he did for a few years before transitioning to the National Research Council of Canada/Biotechnology Research Institute (BRI). His breadth and depth of experience in the fields of research and innovation make him a welcome addition to the Task Force team.
Ms. Rebecca Burns has held a variety of communications and project management positions at the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) over the past 13 years, first in the Communications Department and then as the Sustainable Development point person in the Technical Services Directorate. Originally from Ottawa, Ontario, she holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Cultural Anthropology from McGill University and a Master of Science in Health Administration from Université de Montréal. She achieved her LEED Green Associate certification earlier this year and is currently working towards her PMP credentials.
Senior Research Advisor
Dr. Candace Miller brings experience from academia and the public sector to the COVID-19 Immunity Task Force (CITF). She holds a PhD in Psychology from the University of British Columbia (UBC), with postdoctoral training at the University of Pennsylvania and the Centre for Molecular Medicine and Therapeutics at UBC.
Dr. Miller brings almost 20 years of public sector work experience to the CITF. She worked as a research and policy analyst, with a public safety focus, for various Government of BC agencies, including the BC Coroners Service and the Independent Investigations Office of BC. Her work helped support changes to seatbelt and motorcycle helmet legislation in BC. More recently, Dr. Miller was Senior Advisor, Science Strategy for the CIHR Institute of Gender and Health where she helped in the development of a funding program on Indigenous Gender and Wellness. Her position at the CITF is a secondment, and she continues to work jointly as Senior Analyst Research Data with the Office of the Vice Principal (Research and Innovation) at McGill.
Ms. Carolina Mancini has over 10 years of experience in administration in both the private and public sector, the last five of which were as an Executive Assistant at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC). She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Cell and Molecular Biology from Concordia University and is currently studying project management in pursuance of her PMP certification.