NeuroScience Canada

NeuroScience Canada

October 30, 2007 09:28 ET

NeuroScience Canada Awards $3 million to Two Brain Repair Program™ Research Teams

Accelerating the pace of Canada's world-class neuroscience research

MONTREAL, QUEBEC--(Marketwire - Oct. 30, 2007) - The Hon. Michael J. L. Kirby, Chair of the Board of Directors of NeuroScience Canada, is pleased to announce the recipients of two grants of $1.5 million each over three years for the study of brain repair. This research will use the latest innovations in science to explore means of enhancing the brain's ability to be repaired or repair itself. It is believed that discoveries will lead to new treatments and therapies for a wide range of diseases, disorders and injuries of the brain and nervous system, including Alzheimer's, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's, spinal cord injuries and stroke.

These grants were made possible thanks to a leadership donation of $1.5 million from the WB Family Foundation (T. Robert Beamish Family), partnered funding of $500,000 from the Canadian Institute of Health Research (CIHR) - Institute of Aging, and gifts from the corporate community, as well as from private donors and foundations.

The grants have been awarded to teams led by the following researchers:

1. Dr. Louis-Eric Trudeau, Universite de Montreal, for their work on
Mitochondrial dysfunction and neuronal demise: Insights provided by Parkinson's disease genes

2. Dr. V. Wee Yong, Hotchkiss Brain Institute, University of Calgary, for their work on Harnessing beneficial aspects of neuroinflammation for regenerating the central nervous system

The projects were chosen after a rigorous eight-month selection process, involving the participation of internationally recognized experts from the United States and Europe who unanimously agreed the projects had a high potential for achieving breakthroughs. "NeuroScience Canada's Brain Repair Program is enabling the best and most promising researchers from across Canada to join their efforts and fast-track the search for treatments - and someday cures - for the more than 1,000 disorders of the brain and nervous system," commented the Honourable Michael J. L. Kirby. "Every discovery holds the potential for dramatically improving the lives of those currently afflicted".

1. Dr. Louis-Eric Trudeau, Universite de Montreal

Dr. Trudeau and his team's research project focus on Parkinson's disease. In Parkinson's, brain cells called neurons containing the chemical messenger dopamine degenerate, leading to a dramatic and irreversible perturbation of the function of brain systems involved in motor control. "Although the causes of this disease are not yet completely understood, the last few years have witnessed the discovery of a number of genetic dysfunctions leading to the production of abnormal proteins," said Dr. Trudeau. "Our objective is to explain why these genetic perturbations lead to the death of dopamine-containing neurons and to identify mechanisms that will become novel targets for the development of new treatments for Parkinson's disease." To tackle this challenge, the team has united three investigators that are specialized in the molecular biology of neurodegenerative diseases (Dr. Edward Fon, Montreal Neurological Institute; Dr. David S. Park and Dr. Michael Schlossmacher, University of Ottawa), one investigator specialized in the genetics of neuronal development (Dr. Yong Rao, Centre for Research in Neuroscience), a scientist specialized in the biology of mitochondria (Dr. Heidi McBride, Ottawa Health Research Institute) and one expert in the physiology of dopamine neurons (Dr. Louis-Eric Trudeau, Universite de Montreal). This research could also lead to discoveries that will be relevant to a number of other degenerative diseases including Alzheimer's and stroke that also implicate the abnormal demise of neurons in the brain.

2. Dr. V. Wee Yong, Hotchkiss Brain Institute, University of Calgary

Dr. Yong and his team's research project focus on repair of the injured immune system. While it is recognized that excessive activation of immune cells is detrimental in many situations, a well-controlled immune response is what allows the healing of most body parts when damage is suffered. "By learning how physiologic inflammation enables recovery, we hope to harness the beneficial aspects of innate neuroinflammation to allow the regeneration of the central nervous system (CNS) from insults," explained Dr. Yong. The research will extend from laboratory studies to clinical trials where the integrity and possible recovery of the nervous system will be determined by sophisticated imaging equipment. In addition to Dr. Yong, the research team is composed of Dr. Luanne Metz, a neurologist and clinical trialist at the University of Calgary; Dr. Christopher Power, a neurologist and neuroimmunologist at the University of Alberta; Dr. Peter Stys, a neurologist and neurophysiologist at the University of Calgary; Dr. Fiona Costello, a neuro-opthalmologist at the University of Calgary; and Dr. Serge Rivest, a neuroimmunologist at the Universite Laval. The approach taken by Dr. Yong and his team is transformational, as it promises to deliver new means to enabling CNS regeneration. These experiments are relevant to promoting recovery from several neurological disorders, including stroke, multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injury, and Alzheimer's disease.

The Brain Repair Program was developed in consultation with a diverse group of neuroscience stakeholders. The program is focused on excellence and innovation, and is giving Canadian researchers the opportunity to utilize the investments in infrastructure and salaries that have already been made by governments and private donors.

The $3 million in grants is part of NeuroScience Canada's $11.5-million national Brain Repair Fund campaign. Three projects totaling $4.5 million were funded in an earlier competition: Novel approaches to central nervous system white matter repair, led by Dr. Freda Miller (University of Toronto); Transforming research on chronic pain, led by Dr. Michael Salter (University of Toronto); and Novel Therapeutics strategies to repair abnormalities in psychiatric disorders, led by Dr. Yu Tian Wang (University of British Columbia). These teams have now completed their three-year grant, and each had their results published in prestigious science journals. A complete description of these projects, as well as the results achieved, can be found on NeuroScience Canada's website at

About NeuroScience Canada (

NeuroScience Canada (which represents the functional integration of the NeuroScience Canada Partnership and NeuroScience Canada Foundation) is a national, non-profit organization that develops and supports collaborative, multidisciplinary, multi-institutional research across the neurosciences. By partnering with the public, private and voluntary sectors, NeuroScience Canada connects the knowledge and resources available in this area to accelerate neuroscience research and funding, and maximize the output of Canada's world-class scientists and researchers. In 2006, NeuroScience Canada received The Conference Board of Canada/Spencer Stuart National Awards in Governance award for the non-profit sector.

About CIHR-Institute of Aging (

CIHR's Institute of Aging supports research to promote healthy aging and to address causes, prevention, screening, diagnosis, treatment, support systems, and palliation for a wide range of conditions associated with aging.

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Contact Information

  • Information or to organize an interview with one
    of the Brain Repair Program researchers:
    NeuroScience Canada
    Dominique Godbout
    Communications Assistant
    Universite de Montreal
    Julie Gazaille
    Media Relations
    Hotchkiss Brain Institute, University of Calgary
    Lisa Fleece, Communications Coordinator