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$19M supports brain research projects


Montreal, QC   The Canada Brain Research Fund, the Brain Canada Foundation, the Azrieli Foundation and the Chagnon Foundation are all partnering to support five research projects aim to discover new treatment and prevention strategies to address Autism Spectrum Disorders, Fragile X syndrome, and Alzheimer disease and related disorders. Funding for the projects is a total of $18.67 million.

The funding will support future research projects with a special focus on Autism Spectrum Disorders and Fragile X syndrome, through the Azrieli Neurodevelopmental Research Program.

The federal government created the Canada Brain Research Fund in 2011 and is providing up to $100 million over six years (2011-2017), to support Canadian neuroscience research and advance knowledge and treatment of brain disease and mental disorders.

The projects receiving funding are as follows:

Project name: Co-clinical trials in mice and humans in autism (through the Azrieli Neurodevelopmental Research Program). Funding: $2.5 million, over five years. Implementing Partner: University of Toronto and Bloorview Research Institute. Lead Investigators: Dr. Evdokia Anagnostou (University of Toronto) & Dr. Jason Lurch (The Hospital for Sick Children). Project Description: Autism has been linked to many causes, but it has not been pinpointed to one particular cause. A co-clinical trial in mice and humans will utilize innovative new drugs to determine which treatments work best with which cause. Data from this co-clinical trial will allow the investigators to create personalized treatment plans to benefit patients with autism. 

Project name: Structural and functional networks in Autism Spectrum Disorder and Fragile X Syndrome (through the Azrieli Neurodevelopmental Research Program). Project value: $ 2.49 million over five years. Implementing Partner: McGill University. Lead investigator: Dr. Alan Evans (McGill University). Project Description: Childhood disorders such as Autism and Fragile X Syndrome are due to abnormal growth and connections in the brain. The investigators will analyze imaging data from over 600 at-risk infants to develop the best imaging technique for identifying an early biomarker for Autism and Fragile X syndrome. Determination of this biomarker will suggest strategies for early intervention to reduce the impact of these disorders. 

Project name: Correction of Neuronal Function in Autism (through the Azrieli Neurodevelopmental Research Program). Project value: $ 2.46 million over five years. Implementing Partner: McMaster University. Lead Investigator: Dr. Laurie Doering (McMaster University). Project Description: Astrocytes are brain cells which manufacture substances to ensure proper communication to all brain cells. However, altered communication may lead to defects responsible for Autism. Using biological and genetic techniques to alter signalling and substances made by astrocytes could correct abnormal communication patterns in the brain, which in turn will lead to new treatment strategies for Autism. 

Project name: Treatment strategies for Autism Spectrum Disorders and Fragile-X Syndrome using mouse models, via translational control modulators (through the Azrieli Neurodevelopmental Research Program). Project value: $1.23 million over five years. Implementing Partner: McGill University. Lead Investigator: Dr. Nahum Sonenberg (McGill University).  Project Description: Abnormal protein synthesis has been thought to cause the development of Autism and Fragile X Disorder. Mouse models of Autism and Fragile X Disorder will be treated with gene therapy, optogenetics which uses light to control neurons, and innovative drugs to inhibit atypical protein synthesis. Developing new therapies to block aberrant protein synthesis may reverse the effects which cause Autism and Fragile X Disorder.

Project name: Prevention of Alzheimer’s Dementia (AD) in high risk population: A randomized controlled trial of a combination of cognitive training and brain stimulation (through the Interventions for Prevention of Alzheimer Disease and Related Disorders Chagnon Family partnership). Project value: $ 9.99 million over five years. Implementing Partner: Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH). Lead Investigators: Dr. Benoit H. Mulsant, CAMH and Dr. Tarek Rajji, CAMH. Project Description: Older persons who suffer from major depression are at a very high risk for developing Alzheimer disease. This project will study a novel intervention in older persons whose major depression has been successfully treated with an antidepressant medication. If certain medications are beneficial in older persons with major depression, then they can be tested in the general population or in other non-depressed populations at high risk for AD, with the aim of using the treatment to cognitive decline and prevent the onset of AD.

“We know that Canada is home to some of the world’s foremost neuroscientists and that we have the potential to be a world leader in neurodevelopmental research,”said Dr. Naomi Azrieli, chair and CEO of the Azrieli Foundation.  “By providing scientists with significant financial support, we are providing the lifeblood of advanced research.”