The Population Health Research Institute (PHRI) and Bayer Inc. are working together to immediately launch a major clinical research program aimed at identifying potential COVID-19 treatments.

The plan includes two studies that will evaluate the safety and efficacy of different combination therapies, including Bayer’s chloroquine and interferon beta-1b.

“Specifically, an outpatient study will evaluate the combination of chloroquine with azithromycin to see if this treatment can prevent deterioration leading to hospital admission, while a second study will evaluate the combination of chloroquine with azithromycin, as well as interferon beta-1b, to prevent admission to intensive care, mechanical ventilation and/or death to combat COVID-19,”  Salim Yusuf, executive director of PHRI, said in a release. “Our goal is to assess the value of these and other therapies rapidly so that the results can inform practice as soon as possible.”

Bayer is investing $1.5 million towards the studies and will supply study drugs to support the research. This adds to the $500,000 PHRI put forward earlier this month to develop the research program.

“We look forward to once again partner with the outstanding research team at PHRI,” Shurjeel Choudhri, SVP, medical & scientific affairs at Bayer Inc., said in a statement. “This is another great example of joining forces with partners in the fight against COVID-19. Taking bold action around the world to fight and contain COVID-19 is our goal.”

PHRI plans to enroll 6,000 patients into the two studies from more than 60 contributing research sites across Canada and internationally.