ALS Canada, Brain Canada to fund more than $1M in research grants

9 projects awarded in Discovery Grant program to support Canadian research

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by Mary Chapman |

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The ALS Society of Canada (ALS Canada) and Brain Canada are collaboratively investing CA$1.4 million (about $1.1M US) in nine grants for studies ranging from the development of new treatments for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) to finding ways to predict disease progression.

The ALS Canada Discovery grant program supports projects that seek to identify causes of the neurodegenerative disorder, treatments for ALS or related diseases, and ways for patients to live optimally.

This funding round also received financial support from the Dr. Jean-Pierre Canuel Fund at the nonprofit patient support organization SLA Quebec.

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Grant projects chosen after competitive peer-review process

“The Discovery Grant program continues to support critical Canadian research that contributes to the global effort on understanding and treating ALS,” David Taylor, PhD, vice president of research and strategic partnerships at ALS Canada, said in a press release from the organization.

“Over the past 15 years, many discoveries made with these funds have provided a foundation for studies that are impacting humans today, whether through clinical trials or critical initiatives like CAPTURE ALS,” Taylor said.

Of note, CAPTURE ALS is a Canadian-based platform that enables ALS researchers to share common resources, including vast amounts of data from ALS patients.

Grant projects were chosen following a competitive peer-review process in which global ALS experts considered each applicant’s merit, the project’s quality, and the potential to advance the field of ALS research.

As part of the partnership’s commitment to back more ambitious research, the Discovery grant program includes two CA$300,000 funding opportunities, an increase from the CA$125,000 at which additional projects had been funded.

The Discovery Grant program continues to support critical Canadian research that contributes to the global effort on understanding and treating ALS.

List of grant recipients

This year, one of the CA$300,00 Discovery grants went to Alex Parker, PhD, of the Universite de Montreal, and Gary Armstrong, PhD, of McGill University, to study whether axon protection could be a promising ALS treatment strategy. Funding for this particular project came from two CA$150,000 contributions from Brain Canada and SLA Quebec.

The other grant went to Richard Robitaille, PhD, Danielle Arbour, PhD, and Roberta Piovesana, PhD, of the University of Montreal, and Robert Bowser, PhD, of the Barrow Neurological Institute, who will use their CA$300,000 award to study whether neuromuscular junction proteins could aid in the development of ALS biomarkers.

Recipients of the CA$125,000 Discovery grants:

  • Carlos Rodrigo Camara-Lemarroy, MD, and Minh Dang Nguyen, PhD, both of the University of Calgary, and Deepak Kaushik, PhD, of the Memorial University of Newfoundland, will study whether a certain routine and inexpensive procedure could have a neuroprotective effect in ALS.
  • Renee Douville, PhD, of the University of Winnipeg, Jody Haigh, PhD, of the University of Manitoba, and Domenico Di Curzio, PhD, of St. Boniface Hospital Albrechtsen Research Centre will investigate the potential role of retroviruses using a new mouse model of ALS.
  • Thomas Durcan, PhD, and Yasser Iturria-Medina, PhD, both of McGill University, will study whether a new three-dimensional cell culture model can help predict ALS progression.
  • Gary Shaw, PhD, and Martin Duennwald, PhD, of Western University, and Elizabeth Meiering, PhD, of the University of Waterloo, will determine if improving the mechanisms of toxic protein disposal in motor neurons can become a treatment strategy.
  • Maria Stepanova, PhD, in collaboration with Holger Wille, PhD, of the University of Alberta, will use their grant to examine the potential for computational methods to aid in the design of antibodies for ALS diagnosis and treatment.
  • Christine Vande Velde, PhD, of the Universite de Montreal, and Marlene Oeffinger, PhD, of the Institut de recherches cliniques de Montreal will investigate if restoring G3BP1 levels could be a promising ALS treatment strategy.
  • Maria Vera Ugalde, PhD, and Heather Durham, PhD, of McGill University, will study whether a novel way of viewing certain protective proteins could better explain their role in ALS.

“These nine leading-edge projects led by teams across Canada are contributing to global scientific discovery,” said Viviane Poupon, PhD, Brain Canada president and CEO. “Our unique partnership with ALS Canada has the potential to lead to better diagnosis and treatment for people living with ALS, and it’s something that we are very proud of.”