New Quebec neuroscience partnership awarded $7M

Published: 13 December 2021

The Neuro and the CERVO Brain Research Centre join forces to pave the way for much needed biomarker discovery in brain diseases

The Neuro-CERVO Alliance for Drug Discovery (NCADD), a new partnership between The Neuro (Montreal Neurological Institute-Hospital) at McGill University and the CERVO Brain Research Centre of the CIUSSS de la Capitale-Nationale, affilitated with l’Université Laval, was awarded $7M CAD in funding over three years from the Ministry of Economy and Innovation, through its Fonds d’accélération des collaborations en santé, administered by the Quebec Biopharmaceutical Research Consortium (CQDM). This funding will be matched by private and philanthropic funds to bring the total amount of funding of the NCADD partnership to $15.32 M.

The Challenge

Brain diseases such as neurodegenerative disorders (Parkinson’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) or psychiatric disorders (schizophrenia, bipolar disorders, major depression) are complex and debilitating, affecting more than ten per cent of the population of G7 nations, placing a heavy burden on patients, their families and society. Despite decades of research, these patients are only offered treatments that at best only control the disease symptoms but do not directly target the disease mechanisms and do not slow or stop the disease progression. The lack of success in finding effective treatments can be explained, at least in part, by the complexity of the underlying disease mechanisms, which may differ from one patient to the next.

The Solution: Innovative public private partnerships and Open Science

NCADD will address this major challenge by finding biomarkers to stratify patients and facilitate development of personalized therapies. The project will primarily focus on patients affected by Parkinson’s disease, schizophrenia or bipolar disorder as well as healthy individuals recruited as controls.

This highly multi-disciplinary project relies on expertise and technology within established platforms and facilities at The Neuro and the CERVO Brain Research Centre and samples collected through the Fonds de recherche du Québec – Santé (FRQS)’s Quebec Parkinson Network and other registries, which will be used to develop deeply characterized cellular models.

The goal is to develop artificial intelligence-based approaches to classify patients into distinct subgroups using data from this deep cellular characterization, coupled with clinical data. Such tools would allow scientists to identify disease biomarkers, which are important in developing early detection methods and as therapeutic targets, and importantly for grouping patients into appropriate clinical trials. Ultimately, the goal is to tailor therapies for each subgroup of patients.

Through a unique forward-looking public-private partnership, the aim is to advance drug discovery for brain diseases through Open Science – the sharing of information to break down barriers and fostering collaboration. To achieve this goal, NCADD will work in collaboration with multiple Québec-based companies, namely Bliq Photonics, nPlex, Affinite Instruments, YCharos, eNuvio and Imagia. Other partners with valuable expertise will be involved, such as Cyclica, the National Research Council of Canada, the National Optics Institute and international pharmaceutical companies. NCADD will also support the development of new spin-offs based on optimized innovative tools or discovered biomarkers.

“The critical support of the Fonds d’accélération des collaborations en santé (FACS) is creating a Quebec-based alliance that brings together two massively rich poles of expertise in a collaborative partnership, maximizing the impact of their research on brain diseases,” says Dr. Edward Fon, Scientific Director at The Neuro and NCADD’s co-principal investigator. “All data and samples will be made openly accessible so that other institutes can use it to further their work. This will allow us and others to find new biomarkers and develop personalized medicine to improve patient lives.”

“The beauty of the project is that, beyond enabling breakthrough biomedical discoveries, it will drive technology development in partnership with companies in the photonics and artificial intelligence sectors and stimulate the emergence of new start-up companies at the interface of the physical, computational, and life sciences. This convergence of sectors is key to drive innovation," says Yves De Koninck, Scientific Director of the CERVO Brain Research Centre.

The Neuro

The Neuro – The Montreal Neurological Institute-Hospital – is a bilingual, world-leading destination for brain research and advanced patient care. Since its founding in 1934 by renowned neurosurgeon Dr. Wilder Penfield, The Neuro has grown to be the largest specialized neuroscience research and clinical center in Canada, and one of the largest in the world. The seamless integration of research, patient care, and training of the world’s top minds make The Neuro uniquely positioned to have a significant impact on the understanding and treatment of nervous system disorders. In 2016, The Neuro became the first institute in the world to fully embrace the Open Science philosophy, creating the Tanenbaum Open Science Institute. The Montreal Neurological Institute is a McGill University research and teaching institute. The Montreal Neurological Hospital is part of the Neuroscience Mission of the McGill University Health Centre. For more information, please visit

Le CIUSSS de la Capitale-Nationale

Le CIUSSS de la Capitale-Nationale actively contributes to improving the overall health of the population living in its territory, and provides users and their families with local, integrated and accessible health care and social services. With a focus on quality, safety and performance, it delivers care and services in keeping with best practices and innovation and promotes the participation of users, their families and its personnel. The CIUSSS de la Capitale-Nationale mobilizes and coordinates local networks to meet the needs of the population it serves. Affiliated with Université Laval, and in collaboration with other academic institutions, it delivers quality education and training, shares knowledge and develops leading-edge practices. It also promotes the exchange and dissemination of scientific and clinical knowledge in order to help enhance the quality of the care and services offered, from bench to bedside.

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The Neuro (Montreal Neurological Institute-Hospital) is a bilingual academic healthcare institution. We are a McGill research and teaching institute; delivering high-quality patient care, as part of the Neuroscience Mission of the McGill University Health Centre. We are proud to be a Killam Institution, supported by the Killam Trusts.



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