Infrastructure grants from Canadian government fund brain, spinal cord research

The Faculty of Medicine received a total of $31.2 million  in the latest round of CFI funding, announced today at the Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health (DMCBH). The eight projects represent the majority of the 15 grants, totaling $52.2 million, awarded to UBC. Three of these were awarded to DMCBH members.

“Hearing about the scientists and researchers here at the University of British Columbia is truly inspiring,” said federal Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada Jody Wilson-Raybould, who made the announcement. “The projects that feature physics, health research, robotics and address various health conditions are examples of what Canadians can achieve when given the proper tools to excel. I am proud that our government can support such ground-breaking research, and I truly look forward to a future where our scientists will help to make Canada the best it can be.”

“The Innovation Fund provides UBC researchers with critical funding for the space and equipment they need to advance research,” said Gail Murphy, UBC’s Vice-President, Research and Innovation. “We thank the Canada Foundation for Innovation and the Government of Canada for their ongoing support.”

DMCBH members received over $10 million in funding for projects to support brain and spinal cord injury research

Dr. Cheryl Wellington received $4.5 million for further development of a platform for investigating traumatic brain injury (TBI). The project stems from a technology invented at UBC called Closed Head Impact Model of Engineered Rotational Acceleration, which reliably produces diffuse axonal injury, the major pathology in human TBI. The research aims to develop biomarkers for TBI and more accurately predict recovery and long-term consequences.

“The Innovation Fund is enabling me to bring new technologies to UBC to help see how the brain changes after concussion," said Dr. Cheryl Wellington. "This is a crucial step for accurate diagnosis and to evaluate new treatment options.”

Dr. Vesna Sossi received $4.3 million to acquire a hybrid positron emission tomography and magnetic resonance imaging machine (PET/MRI). The machine, to be housed in the Djavad Mowfaghian Centre for Brain Health, will allow scientists to “see” how neurochemistry overlaps with the brain’s energy consumption  and how it affects brain connectivity. By revealing details about those processes, the team expects to gain a better understanding of most, if not all, brain illnesses.

Dr. Wolfram Tezlaff received $1.6 million to refine techniques for modelling and analyzing spinal cord injury. The project will develop the next generation of equipment for simulating fracture-dislocation injuries in animal models, thus providing more clinically-relevant examples of the stresses on the spinal cord and the resulting tissue damage — essential information for the development of treatments and design of clinical trials to test treatments in humans. The researchers will use such models to search for biomarkers in cerebrospinal fluid, to conduct optical sectioning and three-dimintion modelling to better examine healthy and damaged tissue, and to evaluate motor, cardiovascular, urological, and sensory outcome parameters in animals.

About the Innovation Fund

The Innovation Fund supports initiatives that allow universities, colleges and research hospitals and their students to build on existing areas of expertise such as artificial intelligence, quantum science, brain health, and renewable energy. This fund aims to put the right tools in the hands of the country’s scientists so they can discover, innovate and train their students for the jobs of tomorrow. By doing so, scientists are contributing to building a bolder, brighter future for all Canadians, one that includes a strong and healthy middle class.