Oxford Joins In

Oxford to Help Unlock Mysteries of the Brain

Who knows if 1,000 typing monkeys will ever write a Shakespeare play, but the odds improve with 2,000...

There is a simplified way of looking at the program of research partnerships that is an important element of the Brain@McGill.

“Joining forces will accelerate the pace of discoveries,[i]” says Dr. Rémi Quirion, Vice Dean for Life Sciences and Strategic Initiatives, who heads up the Brain@McGill initiative.

“The world is getting smaller and smaller. So having partnerships that maximize each research dollar and contribute expertise is very critical.”

Now, the Brain@McGill represents the neuroscience resources of one of the world’s leading research academic institutions.  So McGill is not going to partner with just anyone, however many dollars get maximized. So they began at the top.

“If there is one name that crops up in neuroscience even more than ours, it is that of the University of Oxford,[ii]” says Claudio Cuello, the chair of pharmacology at McGill and a former Oxford professor. “I was delighted to play a role in making Oxford our first research partner in the Brain@McGill.”

After opening overtures by Cuello to his former colleagues, McGill principal Heather Munroe-Blum visited the famous university and the partnership quickly followed.  The initial exchange is expected to last three years and costs are being shared 50-50.

McGill’s share is underwritten by a donation from Arnold Steinberg who had just become the new chancellor of McGill when he was tapped for $300,000.

“It was only my second day,” he says.”But I was honoured to start by playing a role in bringing about this partnership.”

The new alliance is expected to accelerate advances in shared areas such as Alzheimer’s disease and stroke by broadening the scope of research and applying different methods to similar problems.  An exchange program for graduate and postgrad students is expected in 2011 as well as visiting positions for faculty.

The partnership program will not only share expertise but experience.  Many facets of brain study require large pools of information – the ongoing study of large populations of people over time.  Joining forces creates these bigger pools of knowledge which results in speedier conclusions.

Important links between McGill and Oxford have been in place for many decades.   In 1915, Dr. Wilder Penfield was a Rhodes scholar at Oxford and it was while there that he came to see the brain and n nervous system as “unexplored country”.

Each university is considered a powerhouse in brain research.  At McGill, more than 200 faculty research and teach in disciplines related to neuroscience. At Oxford, more than 130 principal investigators and 250 research assistants are involved.


[i]  Quoted in Globe & Mail article at Oxford announcement – likely publication date April 20, 2010

[ii]  This quote is fabricated and will need approval