NeuroScience Canada is dedicated to promoting and funding research collaboration on a national scale. Recognizing that neurological and / or psychiatric disease is one of the three major health afflictions of Canadians, along with cancer and cardiovascular disease, NeuroScience Canada seeks to bring private philanthropy together with public funds in support of major research advances to address neurological disorders in all their forms. The partnership leverages all donated dollars via partnerships. See also our National Brain Repair Program.
The Alberta Initiative was developed with the purpose of retaining excellent young neuroscience researchers at three Alberta universities: University of Calgary, University of Alberta and University of Lethbridge. Gifts to the Alberta Initiative were combined with Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research (AHFMR) funds, effectively multiplying support. The AHFMR also conducted the peer review to select the award recipients.
To date, we have allocated $597,650 to fund eight fellowships and 22 studentships. These funds were matched by the AHFMR at a ratio of 7:3. An additional $125,000 was allocated to support two researchers in Dr. Samuel Weiss’ lab at the University of Calgary, as part of Dr. Freda Miller’s Brain Repair Program™ project.
A further $75,000 has been directed to support research that looks at mental illness and concurrent disorders as determinants of homelessness. Two leading researchers, Dr. James R. Dunn and Dr. Paula Goering, are conducting a project in Toronto and Calgary titled: Feasibility Study for a Two-City Demonstration of Supportive Housing for Individuals with Severe Mental Illness. Drs. Dunn and Goering are undertaking a pilot study in the cities of Toronto and Calgary, of the effects of supportive housing on people with severe and persistent mental illness (SPMI). Of particular interest is the effect of supportive housing on future housing stability, quality of life, functioning, symptoms, and health care utilization for people with SPMI. In April 2008, Drs. Dunn and Goering reported that they have completed the data collection and have assembled a working group to assess its validity and reliability. In addition, they have three manuscripts in preparation that will be submitted for publication. The study was also one of the key references used by the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) to make the case to the Federal Government to allocate $110 million towards research to help the homeless living with mental illness. Dr. Goering has become research advisor to the MHCC for the design and development of a five-city demonstration project that will focus on a distinct group of people living with mental illness who are homeless. She is drawing upon what was learned in this feasibility study as she plans the larger MHCC study.
Barbara Turnbull Award for Spinal Cord Research
This award, in support of Canadian research on spinal cord injury, is funded by NeuroScience Canada, in partnership with the Barbara Turnbull Foundation for Spinal Cord Research and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Institute of Neurosciences, Mental Health and Addiction (INMHA). The award recipient is selected from among the CIHR-funded investigators for that year, judged to be doing the most promising and exciting research in this area. NeuroScience Canada and the Barbara Turnbull Foundation for Spinal Cord Research each provide $25,000 for a total of $50,000. This amount is added to the $300,000 operating grant that the CIHR is providing to the researcher over three years. Seven awards have been presented to date. A list of the recipients can be found under the Award recipients section.
Canadian Neurotrauma Research Program (CNRP)
The CNRP had the goals of funding excellence in neurotrauma research (brain and spinal cord repair), focusing research efforts in Canada, minimizing a duplication of efforts, encouraging collaboration between institutions, laboratories and scientists, and fostering an environment where young scientists and clinical investigators could flourish. This program was supported by NeuroScience Canada, in partnership with the Rick Hansen Institute/Rick Hansen Neurotrauma Initiative-B.C., Regeneration Tour Society, The Alberta Paraplegic Foundation, Manitoba Neurotrauma Initiative, Newfoundland/Labrador Neurotrauma Initiative, Ontario Neurotrauma Foundation and the CIHR. From the launch in 1999 to 2002, $16.8 million was disbursed, funding 56 operating grants and 22 fellowships.
Between May 2003 and March 2004, Dr. Patrick McGrath of the Canadian Consortium on Pain Mechanisms, Diagnosis and Management recruited several trainees to work in the area of “Origins of Psychosocial Mechanisms and Determinants of Chronic Pain”. This research aimed to discover the origins of chronic pain in childhood and adolescence. NeuroScience Canada contributed $34,000 to the program, which Dr. McGrath then leveraged fourfold.
Cognitive Impairment in Aging
NeuroScience Canada is a member of the Cognitive Impairment in Aging (CIA) Partnership. The CIA Partnership is a collaboration between government, non-government and industry groups led by the CIHR’s Institute of Aging. Its mission is to improve knowledge in the area of cognitive impairment by coordinating increased research efforts that in turn will facilitate the development, application and evaluation of interventions, services and products for older people. As of June 1st, 2005, $15.3 million has been committed by CIA partners towards a range of research programs, supporting individuals and teams doing research in this area.
Gene Therapy for Neurological Diseases
This program supported an interdisciplinary team of scientists under the leadership of Dr. George Karpati, a researcher at the Montreal Neurological Institute. The team studied the use of novel gene therapies to treat, and hopefully cure, untreatable neurological and neuromuscular disorders, particularly occurring in young children and adolescents. These disorders include Duchenne muscular dystrophy, McArdle disease (glycogen phosphorylase deficiency), and a kind of brain tumour called glioblasma multiforme. This $1.5-million program offered exceptional leveraging, with $14 matched to every dollar donated. NeuroScience Canada contributed $100,000. Other partners included the Institute of Neurosciences, Mental Health, and Addiction, the Muscular Distrophy Association of Canada, and other relevant Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).
Dr. Norma Calder Schizophrenia Post-Doctoral Fellowship
The Dr. Norma Calder Schizophrenia Post-Doctoral Fellowship was a partnership of NeuroScience Canada and the Dr. Norma Calder Schizophrenia Foundation in British Columbia (now known as the Mind Foundation of BC), to fund a post-doctoral fellow at the University of British Columbia conducting research on schizophrenia, within the CIHR’s Health Partnership Program. The award recipient received $41,500 per year, for three years. NeuroScience Canada’s contribution was $10,375 per year, from 2003-2005.
In 2003, a peer-review panel selected Dr. Clare L. Beasley as the recipient of the fellowship, which began in September 2003. Dr. Beasley is a former resident of the United Kingdom and completed her PhD at the University of Sheffield. She had previously been a research fellow at the Institute of Psychiatry in London. Dr. Beasley’s research was titled: Investigating the Possible Role of Proteins, Lipids and Metabolites in Schizophrenia.
Dr. Beasley’s project involved examining the levels of myelin (the fatty sheath covering axons which is essential for the fast conduction of nerve impulses) in the grey matter in subjects with schizophrenia and mood disorders. Results indicated that the concentration of cholesterol was decreased in bipolar disorder and major depressive disorders, but not in schizophrenia. The results of this investigation were published in the October 2005 issue of the journal Bipolar Disorders.
Saskatchewan Schizophrenia Research Program
The Saskatchewan Schizophrenia Research Program is a $1-million, five-year program that could lead to earlier diagnosis and improved treatment for people with this serious brain disorder. Funding partners include AstraZeneca Canada, the CIHR’s Institute of Neurosciences, Mental Health and Addiction, the Royal University Hospital Foundation, the Schizophrenia Research Foundation Saskatchewan, the Saskatoon chapter of the Schizophrenia Society of Saskatchewan and the College of Medicine. NeuroScience Canada provided an additional $30,000 to this program.
Dr. Xin-Min Li and his research team have developed research projects which demonstrate that the combined administration of antidepressants and atypical antipsychotics produce synergistic effects in protecting animals from stress-induced changes in behavior and hippocampal neuroplasticity, which is compromised in patients with depression or schizophrenia. Several publications in leading scientific journals have already resulted from this research.