Brain Canada is pleased to announce the awarding of a 2021 Platform Support Grant (PSG) to Dr. Lisa Saksida and her team from Western University. Together with Western University, Brain Canada is awarding $1.46M to support the Mouse Translational Research Accelerator Platform (MouseTRAP), a state-of-the-art platform for assessment of robust, reproducible and human-relevant cognitive outcomes in mouse models.  

Brain Canada’s Platform Support Grants are awarded to teams that are creating and/or enhancing centralized shared resources to increase access to equipment, expertise, data and protocols across research networks.

More than 90% of the clinical trials testing novel therapeutics for neurodegenerative disorders fail to reach market approval. This leads to billions of dollars in losses for major pharmaceutical companies and, more importantly, delays treatment for the millions of patients and caregivers living with neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. These conditions have profound effects on cognition, such as issues with memory, attention, decision making and cognitive flexibility, leading to significant impacts on quality of life.  

For drugs to be taken into a clinical trial, their safety and efficacy must first be demonstrated in an animal model. Often, researchers measure the success of drugs for neurodegenerative disorders by determining whether they see improvements in the brains of affected mice. In humans, however, the goal is to see improvements in cognition. Because changes in brain pathology don’t always lead to changes in brain function, this can partially explain why many drugs that show promise in rodents don’t work in humans. In order to remedy this issue and improve the chances of success in clinical trials, it is therefore necessary to measure the cognitive effects of drugs in mice, in a way that is relevant to humans.  

Until recently, testing mice and humans on identical tests had never been achieved,” said Dr. Saksida. “With MouseTRAP, we have developed a unique and powerful touchscreen-based system that allows us to assess mice on cognitive tests that are identical to those used in human patients. 

MouseTRAP also uses cutting-edge technologies to record brain activity in mice, further enabling researchers to determine the relevance of a drug’s effects to human cognitive performance. MouseTRAP can be used with healthy mice or with any of the next-generation disease models available in the platform’s catalogue, making it a truly unique resource.  

A paradigm shift was needed to move the prolific discoveries that have been made about the molecular and circuit level of the brain over the past two decades toward breakthrough impact in the clinic,” says Brain Canada President and CEO, Dr. Viviane Poupon. “By supporting platforms such as this one through our Platform Support Grants, Brain Canada ensures that the resources available to Canadian scientists reflect the evolving needs of research.

This project has been made possible by the Canada Brain Research Fund (CBRF), an innovative arrangement between the Government of Canada (through Health Canada) and Brain Canada Foundation. To date, Health Canada has invested over $155 million through the CBRF which has been matched by Brain Canada Foundation and its donors and partners. Learn more about this project in Brain Canada’s directory of funded researchers.