Brain Canada awards 20 grants to up-and-coming researchers to fund game-changing ideas and push innovation forward

For a second year in a row, Brain Canada is joining forces with private foundations to award $100,000 each to 20 early-career researchers from across the country. Backed by the Azrieli Foundation, the Arrell Family Foundation and the Alvin Segal Family Foundation, Brain Canada’s Future Leaders in Canadian Brain Research Program is designed to fund the boldest and brightest ideas at the most critical juncture of a researcher’s career – the beginning.

“By providing this early-career support, we are giving promising researchers the jump-start they need to explore daring, innovative and high-potential lines of research that could help us find solutions to diseases such as Parkinson’s, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, and more,” says Brain Canada President and CEO, Dr. Viviane Poupon. “It is an investment today that is sure to yield breakthrough discoveries for the challenges of tomorrow.”

This program allows researchers in need of seed funding to pursue novel ideas while establishing sustainable resources to maintain independent and career-long research positions. Brain Canada will launch open funding competitions under this program every year, ultimately supporting 100 early-career researchers.

“Receiving funding from organizations such as Brain Canada will really assist me in launching my independent research career and growing my team,” says Dr. Galen Wright, assistant professor in the Department of Pharmacology & Therapeutics at the University of Manitoba and a 2020 Future Leader in Canadian Brain Research. “Our research should lead to a better understanding of how DNA repair processes are implicated in the neurodevelopmental disorder, Rett syndrome.”

This year, the 20 recipients are investigating an array of clinical, translational and basic science to gain insight into a variety of brain disorders, diseases and brain function. From studying pediatric brain tumours, to the effects of isolation on our mental health, to the root of bipolar disorder, these rising stars are poised to strengthen the research landscape and improve the lives of all people in Canada.

“This project is maybe one of the biggest risks I’ve ever taken,” says Benoit Laurent, assistant professor at Université de Sherbrooke and a 2020 Future Leader in Canadian Brain Research. “Advances in Science come from audacity and imagination. If we do not take risks, we do not have rewards.”   

Funding for the Future Leaders in Canadian Brain Research program has been made possible with the financial support of Health Canada, through the Canada Brain Research Fund, an innovative partnership between the Government of Canada (through Health Canada) and Brain Canada, and the Azrieli Foundation, the Arrell Family Foundation and the Alvin Segal Family Foundation.

To learn more about this year’s cohort of Future Leaders in Canadian Brain Research and to read about their projects, visit

2020 Future Leaders in Canadian Brain Research

Brain Canada’s rigour in its scientific review process ensures projects are chosen based on excellence and innovation. For this competition, a total of 180 candidates from coast to coast submitted letters of intent which were evaluated by a peer review panel. Fifty-seven researchers were subsequently invited to submit full, comprehensive grant applications, with the 20 grant recipients chosen after a second round of peer review.

Grant Recipients:

  1. Dr. Simon Chen, University of Ottawa
  2. Dr. Nader Ghasemlou, Queen’s University
  3. Dr. George Ibrahim, The Hospital for Sick Children
  4. Dr. Julia Kam, University of Calgary
  5. Dr. Shannon Kolind, University of British Columbia
  6. Dr. Jasmin Lalonde, University of Guelph
  7. Dr. Benoit Laurent, Université de Sherbrooke
  8. Dr. Yun Li, The Hospital for Sick Children
  9. Dr. Luka Milosevic, University Health Network
  10. Dr. Bratislav Misic, McGill University
  11. Dr. Sue-Ann Mok, University of Alberta
  12. Dr. Wilten Nicola, University of Calgary
  13. Dr. Vijay Ramaswamy, The Hospital for Sick Children
  14. Dr. Derya Sargin, University of Calgary
  15. Dr. Chantelle Sephton, Université Laval
  16. Dr. Greg Silasi, University of Ottawa
  17. Dr. Trevor Steve, University of Alberta
  18. Dr. Tamara Vanderwal, University of British Columbia
  19. Dr. Anne Wheeler, The Hospital for Sick Children
  20. Dr. Galen Wright, University of Manitoba