As one of the seven inaugural national Centres of Excellence in Commercialization and Research (CECR), the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital (The Neuro) at McGill University is developing projects with direct impact on advancing health care and with high potential as important commercial ventures.
With the support of Industry Canada’s CECR award, researchers at The Neuro are finding better ways to target and treat, as well as research, a wide range of disorders that includes stroke, epilepsy, pain, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, brain tumours, Muscular Dystrophy and even obesity. This includes developing sophisticated, automated devices and technologies that can be commercialized – fulfilling demands worldwide for improved research services and clinical treatments. This work ensures that Canada is and continues to be an international leader, and builds a knowledge-based economy.
“The CECR funding has allowed us to start up some high-risk, highly innovative projects, and already we have as a result many successes,” Dr. David Colman, Director of The Neuro, said. “As examples, we have made great progress on new automated devices to detect lesions in drug-resistant epilepsy, as well as advances in ‘targeted medicine’ that include a new diagnostic laboratory providing faster and cheaper access to genetic testing,” he said. “The Neuro’s strategy for CECR funding augments the federal government’s plan to help the research community translate ideas into innovations, provide solutions to health problems and create opportunities for increased economic productivity and competitiveness.“
“McGill is extremely proud of The Neuro and we are honoured to have received this award,” McGill Provost Anthony C. Masi said. “Innovative research and clinical practice are the hallmark of The Neuro and a foundation of McGill’s global standing in neuroscience.”
“The Neuro is clearly a world leader and unique in its integration of research and patient care,” the Honourable Tony Clement, Minister of Industry, said. ”Diseases of the nervous system account for more hospitalizations, long-term care and chronic suffering than nearly all other medical conditions combined. We support The Neuro’s commitment to finding novel paths to develop new technologies and systems to tackle the most pressing problems in neuroscience, neurology and neurosurgery.”
Examples of CECR funded innovations include:
1.Tapping 1, 2, 3, 4 - A superior computerized device developed by Dr. Gabriel Leonard for more accurate testing of motor skills in patients with neurological or neuromuscular diseases such as epilepsy, post-concussion syndrome and Multiple Sclerosis. The device addresses the needs of health practitioners for a sensitive and objective measure of disability. The prototype is testing well and commercial development is anticipated in 2010-11.
2. Getting back your nerves - Dr. Alyson Fournier is edging close to the holy grail of spinal cord injury treatment – getting severed nerves to re-establish functional connections. Severe injuries can have devastating consequences because the neurons are unable to regenerate and restore functional communication. With 80% of all spinal cord injury happening to people younger than 30, lifetime support costs can range from $1.25 million to $5 million, placing a huge burden on patients and their families.
3. Predicting Alzheimer’s - Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) tools to facilitate the development of drugs to treat early Alzheimer’s disease, spearheaded by Dr. Louis Collins. Currently, it is almost impossible to test drugs in patients with early Alzheimer’s disease, as only 10 to 15% of patients with symptoms of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) actually go on to develop Alzheimer’s per year. These software tools will enable prediction of which patients with MCI will develop Alzheimer’s disease, making it feasible to perform drug trials in these patients and eventually make it possible to select patients for early treatment.
4. Tracking proteins - Understanding the cellular basis of disease is one of the revolutionary developments in neurological research. Today it is understood that schizophrenia, Parkinson’s, MS, ALS and many others are diseases of the cells that underlie all brain functions. Dr. Peter McPherson and his team have come up with a hybrid method of making antibodies that is faster, simpler and cheaper. With built-in validation from the experience of MNI researchers, a catalogue of products is being assembled for research and commercial utilization.
About The Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital:
The Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital, The Neuro, is a world-class Canadian academic medical centre, that combines an internationally leading research centre at McGill University, dedicated to unlocking the secrets of the brain and neurological diseases, with specialized hospital services as part of the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC), that ensure the highest quality of advanced and compassionate care for patients with neurological diseases. This unique structure has became a model for institutions around the world, giving unprecedented hope for some of our most debilitating conditions, from epilepsy to stroke to Parkinson’s disease. The Neuro has become one of the largest neuroscience institutes in the world, attracting some of the best minds from around the globe.