Contributing to the health and safety of Canadians during uncertain times

Over the course of the 2021 winter term, I completed my co-op working as a clinical research assistant for LMC Manna Research in Toronto. I was given the exciting opportunity to work on many ongoing clinical health trials in Canada. The most relevant and current research was the COVID-19 vaccine clinical trial from Canada’s own Providence Therapeutics.

Noah Franco smiling with clouds and a blue sky behind him
Noah Franco, 2nd year Science and Business student at the University of Waterloo.

This was a unique opportunity to witness and participate in a phase one first-in-human trial of this Canadian COVID-19 vaccine. The results of the study have recently been published. The trials have proven it as safe and effective at the tested doses (Providence Therapeutics, 2021).

As a second year student, I was the youngest on the research team and felt as if I wouldn’t be able to make a meaningful impact in my role. However, with training and through developing a good working relationship with the team, my confidence grew. I took initiative to create a database to retain specimen information during cryopreservation. This resolved a difficult obstacle for the supervisors and aided in the efficiency of specimen retrieval for our lab.

 
 

In my position as clinical research assistant, I was responsible for maintaining essential study documents, freezing biological samples, assisting with patients, and supporting laboratory procedures. I feel it was a privilege to work in this multi-disciplined, team environment. It was especially interesting to understand the policy and legal framework in bringing a pharmaceutical product to market. At LMC Manna Research, I learned about the wide variety of careers in the research field ranging from clinical research coordinators, principal investigators, and lab technicians. This experience and exposure will aid me in choosing my career path after graduating from the Science & Business Honours Co-op program at the University of Waterloo.

Noah with his co-workers at co-opNoah with his co-workers at LMC Manna Research in Toronto, Canada.

 
This unique and important co-op position afforded so many areas in which to learn. For example, learning primary data collection and lab testing. Under the supervision of the lab technician, I assisted with a project to optimize their mononuclear cell isolation protocol. Drawing parallels with the techniques learned in my biology classes and chemistry labs, I was able to contribute to the experimentation and read up on external literature to assist in optimizing their working procedure (of PBMC isolation).

I also had the opportunity to work directly with study participants involved in the COVID-19 vaccine trials through shadowing study visits, under the supervision of clinical research coordinators. I answered questions about the study, prepared the supplies required for the visit, and learned about primary data collection as well as lab tests during the clinical appointments.

My co-op experience allowed me to apply the knowledge gained in my courses and translate that into practical skills working in the exciting industry of research.

"The best part of this position was going into work every day and knowing that I was contributing to the health and safety of Canadians during uncertain times."

NOAH FRANCo, 2nd year science and business student

Being a part of a talented diverse team, made my co-op term unforgettable and allowed me to learn so much about research. It’s an awesome feeling seeing the clinical trial I was delegated to, progress toward the goal of being used to vaccinate Canadians and to save lives.