Dear members of the McGill community,

In his 2018 book “Enlightenment Now,” McGill alumnus and Harvard Professor Steven Pinker makes the case for the values of Enlightenment: reason, science, humanism, and progress. As we face one of the worst crises of our times, these ideals seem more relevant than ever.

They anchor the research efforts worldwide to understand the COVID-19 virus and defeat it, and they are the foundation of research initiatives here at McGill, where hundreds of researchers are doubling down on a wide array of research projects aimed at, among others, more rapid testing, designing efficient and portable medical instruments, assessing the potential efficacy of already existing drugs, and designing new ones.

You will appreciate how great it feels for me to know that some of the most important research initiatives in Canada are led by people here at McGill. Last week, the federal government announced a major country-wide serology study to gain information on the scope and scale of immunity across Canada – information that is vital to manage the pandemic and safely get Canadians back to work. Dr. Timothy Evans, Associate Dean and Director of McGill’s School of Population and Global Health, will be the Executive Director of the COVID-19 Task Force and Dr. Catherine Hankins will co-chair the Leadership group with Dr. David Naylor of the University of Toronto.

A few weeks earlier, Dr. Vincent Mooser was asked to lead the Quebec COVID-19 Biobank project launched by the Fonds de recherche du Québec and Génome Québec, a province-wide initiative to enable the collection, storage, and sharing of samples and data related to the COVID-19 crisis.

We rarely use military language in research, but here we literally have an army of top experts engaged in fighting the war against COVID-19 with the McGill Interdisciplinary Initiative in Infection and Immunity (MI4), a group that brings together more than 250 researchers who are focusing their expertise and efforts in looking at every aspect of COVID-19, and acquiring the essential knowledge to defeat it.

As we continue to tackle this pandemic, our best arm is knowledge: acquiring knowledge and sharing it with colleagues across the world. And as we search “for the light at the end of the tunnel,” let’s find a ray of hope in the words of Professor Pinker: “There is no limit to the betterments we can attain if we continue to apply knowledge to enhance human flourishing.”


Suzanne Fortier

Principal and Vice-Chancellor

McCall MacBain Professor



May 4, 2020