Scientist from Sunnybrook Research Institute and his multinational team receive a funding boost from WBHI, CIHR, and Brain Canada

Women’s Brain Health Initiative (WBHI), Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), and Brain Canada are pleased to announce that Dr. Mario Masellis has been selected to receive funding as part of the European Union Joint Programme on Neurodegenerative Disease Research (JPND)’s initiative on linking pre-diagnosis disturbances of physiological systems to neurodegenerative diseases. The three organizations are pleased to contribute to the funding of this project with a $320,198 grant.

In early 2021, JPND, the largest global research initiative aimed at tackling the challenge of neurodegenerative diseases, launched a transnational call to fund ambitious, multinational, and multidisciplinary collaborative research projects aimed at identifying and measuring the physiological factors, and their related biomarkers, as well as the causal underlying processes linked to the development of neurodegenerative diseases. Through this program, Brain Canada, CIHR, and WBHI are co-funding Dr. Masellis’ innovative project that specifically includes a sex-based analysis.

“This grant is an incredible support which will help inform future strategies for prevention in the pre-symptomatic or ‘at risk’ phase of dementia,” says Dr. Masellis, scientist with Sunnybrook Research Institute. “This study will harness the power of international expertise, teamwork, and collaboration which are critical elements in studies of dementia.”

Researchers in Canada, Italy, Sweden, the Netherlands, and the Czech Republic are collaborating with Dr. Masellis to examine the interplay between an individual’s genetic, demographic (including sex, age and education), and cardiovascular background to determine how they may interact to increase the risk of developing dementia and/or worsen how dementia is presented. Together, the team will leverage data from several dementia cohorts, spanning a number of diseases including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, vascular cognitive impairment, and more. The goal of this project is to help improve the management and prevention of dementia in the future while ultimately reducing its impact on people in Canada and all over the world.

“We know that brain aging diseases disproportionately affect women,” says WBHI Founder and CEO Lynn Posluns. “Projects, such as this one, that take into account sex and gender differences will improve the lives of so many people in Canada and around the world.”

Integrating sex as an independent variable in research will improve the way health interventions are designed, measured, analyzed, reported, and implemented. Research approaches that consistently account for sex differences drive innovation and scientific rigour and reduce health inequities for previously underrepresented voices.

Funding for this grant was made possible through the Stand Ahead® Challenge, WBHI’s annual campaign to support women’s brain health and raise money for vital sex-based research and preventative health education. Brain Canada matches the first $250,000 raised through the Challenge in support of innovative brain research that considers sex and gender differences.

“By partnering with WBHI, and funding projects that effectively consider sex differences, Brain Canada seeks to support research that is more generalizable to everyone,” says Dr. Viviane Poupon, President and CEO of Brain Canada. “Together, we hope to enable more effective research for a broader range of patients suffering from neurodegenerative diseases.”

“The CIHR Institute of Aging is pleased to partner with Brain Canada and the Women’s Brain Health Initiative to support global research on neurodegenerative diseases,” adds Dr. Jane Rylett, Scientific Director, CHIR Institute of Aging. “Collaborative research projects can go a long way in detecting these diseases earlier in life, accelerating treatments, improving diagnosis and ultimately, finding a cure.”

This project 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, Women’s Brain Health Initiative (WBHI), and Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).