MONTREAL, QC – CQDM and Brain Canada are teaming up to fund two new multi-disciplinary and multi-institutional research projects under the second edition of their Focus on Brain strategic initiative.
In all, $3million will go to two research teams developing cutting-edge tools, technologies and platforms designed to accelerate the discovery of new drugs for brain and nervous system disorders. The two research teams include nine researchers from seven public and private organizations across Canada.
The first project is led by Edward Fon at the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital (MNI) joined by multi-provincial collaborators from McGill University, Université Laval and University of British Columbia. The second project led by Jean-Martin Beaulieu at University of Toronto is a public-private collaboration with the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre and ImStar Therapeutics in Vancouver.
In addition to receiving funding, the research teams will benefit from CQDM’s unique mentoring program, offering them the opportunity to collaborate with influential senior scientists from the pharmaceutical industry. In addition to bringing expertise and support to the projects, the mentors will also help to better align research with the needs of industry and patients.
“The Focus on Brain program, established in partnership with CQDM, connects academia with industry to develop the tools and technologies critical to facilitating effective translation of research results into improved health outcomes,” said Inez Jabalpurwala, president and CEO at Brain Canada. “The projects selected through this program were assessed for their potential to both meet the needs of the biopharmaceutical industry and to have impact across multiple brain disorders.”
“These two very exciting projects could have a huge impact on our understanding of neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and ALS,” adds Diane Gosselin, president and CEO at CQDM.
The Brain Canada funds are provided through a partnership with Health Canada, known as the Canada Brain Research Fund.
About the two projects for brain research in Canada
Project One ($1.5M over three years): A novel patient-derived stem cell neuronal platform for Parkinson’s disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis drug discovery
Researchers: Edward Fon (Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital), Guy Rouleau (McGill University), Nicolas Dupré (Université Laval), Thomas Durcan and Philippe Seguela (Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital), and Neil Cashman (University of British Columbia)
The project involves the development of a novel drug discovery platform for Parkinson’s disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). The platform is based on the isolation of pluripotent stem cells derived from the blood of affected patients. Under appropriate cell culture conditions, these stem cells will differentiate into neurons, thus mimicking in vitro what is happening to these cells in patients. The team will also develop three assays to monitor the properties of these neurons, and thus better understand how they are affected in these diseases. These neuronal cell lines will also be used to screen for drugs that could correct their defective properties. This novel platform will thus enable drug discovery in what will be a new era of therapeutics and personalized medicine for these devastating diseases.
Project Two ($1.488M over three years): A unique platform to harness the hidden potential of RNA-binding proteins involved in brain diseases
Researchers: Jean-Martin Beaulieu (University of Toronto), Keith Murai (Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre), and David Hunt (ImStar Therapeutics)
The project involves the development of an exclusiveRNA-binding proteinsplatform to screen, identify, and validate new drug candidates that affect a large, still relatively unexplored family of proteins. These RNA-binding proteins may be what are needed to address a large spectrum of major brain disorders, such as autism, depression, and Alzheimer’s disease. The technology will, among other things, help tackle the shortage of disease-relevant targets; a main hurdle to the development of new therapeutics to treat these conditions. Moreover, this screening platform will enable identification and development of new classes of drugs while reducing risks at early stages of development, thereby expediting the availability of new CNS-relevant drugs to patients.