ALS Canada Research Program, Brain Canada Award Grants to 9 Projects

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by Mary Chapman |

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The ALS Canada Research Program and the Brain Canada Foundation partnered to award CA$1.125 million (about $885,600) in grants to advance the understanding, diagnosis, and treatment of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

The nine multidisciplinary research grants, awarded late last year to teams across Canada, seek to promote global discoveries in the progressive neurodegenerative disorder and to improve the lives of patients and their families.

Awarded projects aim to identify new targets and biomarkers for ALS treatments, and include a clinical trial to evaluate a novel way to deliver ALS therapies.

“What’s exciting about these nine research initiatives is that they include foundational lab research, clinic-based research and even a clinical trial, demonstrating our continually evolving knowledge in ALS,” David Taylor, PhD, vice president of research for the ALS Society of Canada (ALS Canada), said in a press release.

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“Fundamental research is still very much necessary to better understand how and why ALS develops in the body, but because of the state of the research field today there are also increased opportunities to support biomarker studies and clinical trials. And Canada’s ALS research community has an important contribution to make to these areas.”

These projects, each awarded CA$125,000, were chosen by an international panel of experts for their scientific excellence and the potential to quickly advance research.

They include a clinical investigation into whether image-guided ultrasound technology can help deliver promising ALS treatments, a study into biomarkers that might help investigators better assess promising therapy candidates, a look into whether a new biomarker of the eye might advance ALS research and care, and an exploration into a cutting-edge imaging technique and its ability to identify a link between the disease and a signaling pathway in the brain.

Other projects will assess the potential role of a higher metabolic activity in disease processes, whether the loss of C9orf72  protein function contributes to ALS, and whether small tags on the TDP-43 protein influence its abnormal behavior in the disease.

Researchers in Montréal will also work to determine whether a newly discovered protein variant plays a key role in ALS, while those at the University of Toronto will study if undiscovered protein interactions influence FUS abnormalities in ALS.

“Collaboration and innovation are important principles for Brain Canada, and these nine discovery grants bring together strong Canadian research expertise to move the field forward,” said Viviane Poupon, Brain Canada president and CEO.

“Our partnership with ALS Canada doubles the investment in high-quality Canadian ALS research that will lead to new approaches, new thinking, and transferable insights that will benefit other neurodegenerative diseases with similar underlying mechanisms,” Poupon added.

The grant program is supported by matched funds from the Canada Brain Research Fund — a collaboration between the government of Canada and Brain Canada — and the ALS Canada Research Program, supported by ALS Society of Canada donors. The grant funding is part of the society’s research commitment for 2021.