Core Facility and Technology Development Program: Competition I

In November 2017, subcommittees were invited to submit one or more applications for the first competition of the Core Facility and Technology Development Program. These applications were based on research priorities identified in a series of workshops held in Summer 2017.

Nine proposals were received and evaluated by a committee composed of McGill faculty members with extensive knowledge and experience in the operations and management of core facilities. The committee recommended funding of the proposals listed below.



Principal Investigator: Jean-Baptiste Poline, Bryan Caron
Funding received: $3,159, 000 over 3 years

NeuroHub is building an open neuroinformatics infrastructure to provide the scientific community with tools for efficient, collaborative and reproducible science across scientific disciplines. The platform will advance McGill’s efforts to become a global centre of excellence in data science research by not only including traditional datasets like neuroimaging and genomics, but also cohort and longitudinal data studies, behavioural studies, sociology and population data, and soft data extracted from existing publications. NeuroHub will also take advantage of existing technologies (such as LORIS, PopHR and Genome Centre databases) to enable complex brain information to be used alongside other data to stimulate new discoveries for the benefit of Canada’s population health. The platform aims to implement the FAIR principles (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, Reusable) and lead the development of international neuroinformatics standards and best practices.

McGill Brain Health Outcomes Platform (BHOP)

Principal Investigators: Nancy Mayo and Lesley Fellows
Funding received: $337,000 over 3 years

The McGill Brain Health Outcomes Platform (BHOP) is a test bed to evaluate the technical and scientific requirements needed to assess neurological and mental health patients over time. The platform's goals are to select patient-centred assessments that can be applied across many brain health conditions, optimize the core set of assessments to comprehensively assess the health condition of patients, and create a web-based platform to monitor study participants over time and generate research-quality longitudinal data. BHOP also has the capability to record patient’s unique experiences to better understand individual brain health, and has implemented electronic consent, online capacity to consent, and open science principles. Finally, BHOP gives a voice to all patients with neurological and mental health disorders, allowing them to participate in the platform by recruiting their legally authorized representative to act as an informant.

McGill-Mouse-Miniscope Project (M3)

Two researchers using analysis tools on computers elevated on cabinets.

Principal Investigators: Stefano Stifani, Mark Brandon, Sylvain Williams and Keith Murai (M3); Jim Gourdon (CMARC)
Funding received: $1,620,000 (M3) and $400,000 (CMARC) over 3 years

The mission of the McGill-Mouse-Miniscope Project (which also encompasses the McGill Comparative Medicine & Animal Resources Centre) is to develop and provide new expertise and technologies that bridge the research findings between mouse and human. The platform is continually developing and testing novel approaches for understanding and decoding brain and circuit function and they are eager to share their capabilities with the greater neuroscience community.
Currently, the M3 facility is ready to collect high-throughput in vivo neuronal activation in mice, by way of calcium imaging through the UCLA Miniscope, during validated behaviour activity in Bussey-Saksida touchscreen chambers. 

Montreal Neurological Institute Early Drug Discovery Unit (EDDU)

Researcher working with syringe and test tubes in the EDDU.

(Photo credit: Anthony Revoy, Neuro Media Services, The Neuro Neurological Institute-Hospital)

Principal Investigators: Thomas Durcan and Edward Fon
Funding received: $1,330,000 over 3 years

The objectives of the Montreal Neurological Institute's Early Drug Discovery Unit (EDDU) are to train the next generation of researchers on stem cells, translate fundamental research and technology into industry-standard assays and to work towards identifying new treatments for neurological disorders. Through these objectives, the platform hopes to accelerate a deeper understanding of neurodegenerative disorders, so that one day new therapies can increase patient quality of life and decrease the personal and financial burden on families and the health system. Working between industry partners and academics, the EDDU has developed unique training workshops, seminars and online methods to provide tools to researchers wanting to work with patient-derived stem cells. Using a suite of molecular, cellular and automated screening infrastructure, the EDDU has been able to work with researchers to develop industry-standard assays with input from industry partners. The EDDU has operated as an open science platform in order to freely share data and materials to speed up drug discovery and ultimately make a difference in the lives of patients.

Douglas Brain Imaging Centre (Douglas BIC)

Principal Investigator: Natasha Rajah
Funding received: $1,449,584 over 3 years

The Douglas Brain Imaging Centre (BIC) was built in 2011 and is a state-of-the art facility that houses a Bruker 7.0T Biospec 70/30USR Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scanner for small animal research and 1H MRI CryoProbeTM 2 Element Array Kit for Mice (Preclinical MRI unit); a Siemens 3.0T MRI Scanner form human research (Clinical Research MRI unit), and other research facilities (i.e. TMS and EEG-ERP labs, optogenetics research labs, computational neuroscience workstations and various animal preparation labs etc). The BIC provides services to more than 30 principal investigators, and their research teams. The Centre’s mission is to provide imaging services and support innovative research in the field of systemic and translational neuroscience in mental health by integrating the results of preclinical (small animal) and clinical (human) brain imaging studies. Through HBHL support the Centre was able to upgrade its Siemens 3.0T MRI to the latest Prisma-Fit technology, in order for the Douglas' team to continue to provide state-of-the-art MRI services to its researchers. In addition, HBHL support will allow the establishment of the Mental Health Imaging in Neuroscience Database (MHIND) to store neuroimaging and biobehavioral data and metadata from registered studies at the Douglas BIC. The long-term goal of this project is to establish a repository of cross-species structural and functional MRI datasets of age varying healthy controls and clinical samples with various mental illnesses (i.e. dementia, psychosis etc). We aim to have this database accessible in the long-term to the HBHL community and later to the broader neuroscience community.

McConnell Brain Imaging Centre (BIC)

A team of three researchers posing in front of a large imaging machine.

Principal Investigator: Julien Doyon
Funding received: $1,500,000 over 3 years

Affiliated with the Montreal Neurological Institute (The Neuro) at McGill University, the McConnell Brain Imaging Centre (BIC) is a one-of-a-kind, multidisciplinary neuroimaging centre recognized internationally for its advances in the acquisition and analysis of multimodal imaging data, as well as for its groundbreaking discoveries related to structural, functional and molecular mechanisms of the healthy and diseased brain. The BIC is currently composed of 29 world-class researchers and over 300 trainees and staff who collectively make a significant contribution to Canada’s impact on neuroscience and neuroimaging. Funding from the HBHL Core Facilities Grant is essential, as it allows partial coverage of the cost of several service contracts that maintain the BIC's technological and methodological platforms, including the Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) Unit, Preclinical MRI Unit, the Positron Emission Tomography Unit and the Radiochemistry Unit.

Douglas-Bell Canada Brain Bank (DBCBB)

Masked researcher preparing material for storage.

Principal Investigators: Gustavo Turecki and Naguib Mechawar
Funding received: $1,152,673 over 3 years

The Douglas-Bell Canada Brain Bank (DBCBB) currently houses over 3,500 brains from people with diverse psychiatric and neurological disorders (including schizophrenia, major depression, bipolar disorder, Alzheimer’s disease and substance disorders) through special partnerships with research consortia. Alongside the physical samples, the DBCBB also features a large database containing demographic, clinical and developmental histories from the donors. As the DBCBB contains tissue from psychiatrically healthy individuals and from those affected with psychiatric and neurological disorders, it allows for unique discoveries on the human brain and human illnesses, but also for research conducted in animals to be translated to humans. The DBCBB is a unique and valuable resource that provides well-characterized brain samples to many researchers at McGill and elsewhere in Quebec, the rest of Canada and internationally, and it has enabled several ground-breaking discoveries.

McGill Cognitive Neuroscience Research Registry (MCNRR)

Principal Investigator: Lesley Fellows
Funding received: $282,000 over 3 years

Focal lesion research remains one of the few approaches in neuroscience that can provide causal evidence about relationships between the human brain's structure and function, and also helps to bring cognitive neuroscience findings into clinical practice. Patients with focal brain injuries suited to this kind of research are rare, and the recruitment of a large number of these patients is difficult for most individual investigators. The McGill Cognitive Neuroscience Research Registry (MCNRR) aims to identify and characterize such patients who are willing to participate in research, and coordinate their recruitment for cognitive neuroscience research projects carried out by researchers affiliated with McGill. The MCNRR also includes healthy participants to provide access to similarly characterized, demographically appropriate groups for comparison. There are very few other centres in the world offering similar platforms; the MCNRR positions McGill as an international leader in this foundational research method for understanding how the brain mechanisms underlying cognition and behaviour in humans.

Montreal Neuro 7-Tesla MRI Facility (RF Coil Lab)

The Neuro's 7T MRI machine, open in a well-lit white room.

Principal Investigator: Richard Hoge
Funding received: $500,000 over 1 year ($280,000 toward construction of the 7-tesla MRI facility, $220,000 toward establishing the RF laboratory)

In 2019, the Montreal Neurological Institute installed Canada's first whole-body 7-tesla magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanner. To fully exploit the capabilities of this system, HBHL funds were granted to equip a laboratory to build specialized radio-frequency (RF) probes for the scanner. The ability to build specialized probes is essential to the use of the 7-tesla MRI scanner in different patient populations, experimental animal models, and for the detection of different biochemical markers in neural tissues.  In addition to enabling novel interdisciplinary research approaches, the HBHL-funded RF lab provides invaluable training opportunities for young neuroscience trainees, has led to discussions of commercial initiatives with several industry partners, and has proven crucial to the development of new MRI technologies for the study of brain disease and mental health.

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