WATERLOO -- The University of Guelph is one of several Ontario universities who have received a financial boost as they fight against COVID-19.

The provincial government announced Thursday their first phase of research projects in response to the pandemic.

One of these projects is from U of G pathobiology professor Byram Bridle and his team.

"We have been focused on cancer for years, but this collaboration shows the flexibility of the technology we have at Guelph," he said in a news release. "We can rapidly apply cancer technology and move it over to infectious disease."

The researchers have received a one-year, $230,000 grant to adapt their findings, as roughly 120 Canadian projects race to find an effective COVID-19 vaccine.

Bridle believes their team will be a top candidate and hopes to see a viable vaccine approved by Health Canada in 2021.

The vaccine being tested targets a protein found on the surface of coronavirus. By measuring immune responses to the protein in mice and chicken, the team will look at antibodies that recognize it and potentially prevent it from entering lung cells.

"With these vaccine vectors, we designed them to be ‘plug and play,’" said Bridle. "You can put any gene into the vectors within two weeks. It could be a target protein in a cancer cell, but it could just as easily be a protein on a virus. "

Nearly a dozen researchers are involved in the project at University of Guelph.

All three labs being usedat the school have been approved for critical research status. This means they can conduct studies while still observing pandemic safety protocols.

Ontario has committed $20 million to its COVID-19 Rapid Research Fund, which includes vaccine development, diagnostics, drug trials and development, and social sciences.