A McMaster researcher has played a critical role on a small team that has successfully isolated and grown copies of the virus responsible for COVID-19, enabling urgent Canadian research into how it behaves and how it might be controlled.

Arinjay Banerjee, a postdoctoral researcher at McMaster’s Institute for Infectious Disease Research, specializes in coronaviruses and in bats, a rare combination that gave him the ideal qualifications to collaborate with colleagues from Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre and the University of Toronto on the project.

The team isolated severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the agent responsible for the ongoing outbreak of COVID-19, believed to have jumped to humans from bats.

“I’d always told my friends, ‘When I grow up, I want to be a guy who gets called in if there’s an outbreak,’” Banerjee said. “What’s happening with the outbreak is sad, but I’m glad I can contribute to the process of understanding this and controlling this outbreak.”

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