NeuroBasis: a new collaborative project led by the IRCM to find new treatments for neurological disorders

March 30 2021 | Grants

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The IRCM announces the launch of NeuroBasis, an $8 million, multi-institution project to better understand how neurological disorders develop and find new ways of treating them. The project’s researchers will target conditions such as retinal degeneration, sensory and motor disorders, autism, epilepsy and pediatric brain cancer, in order to bring forward new therapies. 

Led by IRCM neuroscientists and Université de Montréal (UdeM) medical professors Artur Kania and Frédéric Charron, with IRCM colleagues Michel Cayouette and Hideto Takahashi, the researchers hope to identify genetic mutations and critical events causing the disorders.

Using the latest technologies to study the effects of mutations on neurons, neuronal circuits and the entire nervous system, the scientists will facilitate the rapid transfer of new knowledge to improve early detection of symptoms, and develop new treatments. 

“We know that many neurological conditions that are diagnosed later in life originate in early life at a time when the nervous system is being built,” said Dr. Kania, head of the IRCM’s Neural Circuit Development research unit and also an associate professor at UdeM and adjunct professor at McGill University. “If we are able to pinpoint how and when the disease originates, we could help to diagnose and treat it earlier, which could make a tremendous difference in patients’ lives,” he said.

Also involved in the NeuroBasis project are experts in neuroscience and genetics, as well as clinician scientists, from UdeM, McGill, the Montreal Neurological Institute, the CHU Ste-Justine and the McGill University Health Centre’s Montreal Children’s Hospital. They will be working with nearly 100 trainees, technical support staff and researchers.  

“NeuroBasis creates a perfect opportunity to foster the synergies between fundamental researchers and clinicians that are at the heart of the IRCM’s mission, with the goal of speeding up discovery of much-needed new therapies,” said Dr. Charron, an UdeM medical professor and McGill adjunct professor who also runs the IRCM’s Molecular Biology of Neural Development research unit.

The Canada Foundation for Innovation recently announced funding to help support the project’s technological infrastructure. Through its Innovation Fund, the CFI will contribute over $3.1 million, an amount that will be matched by Quebec’s Ministère de l’Économie et de l’Innovation. Additional contributions from the IRCM Foundation and other partners will bring the total funding to nearly $8 million. In all, the grants will provide the NeuroBasis project with the state-of-the-art laboratory equipment required to develop and analyze models of neurological diseases.

The NeuroBasis project involves 10 neuroscientists and clinicians: 

  • Dr. Frédéric Charron (Project leader; IRCM and Department of Medicine, Université de Montréal) 
  • Dr. Artur Kania (Project leader; IRCM and Department of Medicine, Université de Montréal) 
  • Dr. Michel Cayouette (IRCM and Department of Medicine, Université de Montréal) 
  • Dr. Hideto Takahashi (IRCM and Department of Medicine, Université de Montréal) 
  • Dr. Elsa Rossignol (CHU Ste-Justine and Department of Neurosciences, Université de Montréal)
  • Dr. Reza Sharif Naeini (Department of Physiology, McGill University)
  • Dr. Ed Ruthazer (Montreal Neurological Institute, McGill University) 
  • Dr. Stuart Trenholm (Montreal Neurological Institute, McGill University)
  • Dr. Myriam Srour (McGill University Health Centre – Montreal Children’s Hospital) 
  • Dr. Rob Koenekoop (McGill University Health Centre – Montreal Children’s Hospital)