The Brain Brief - Vol. 7. No. 2 September 2011

Table of Contents

Message from the Scientific Director

Anthony PhillipsI am not sure where it lies on the zodiac, but for INMHA, 2011 has been the "Year of Review" and, as noted below, INMHA passed its international review with flying colours. Now, our attention has turned to preparation of a third Strategic Plan that will guide program development from 2012-2017. Unlike the previous INMHA strategic plans, this one will be greatly influenced by the over-arching plan adopted by CIHR in 2009, the "Health Research Roadmap: Creating innovative research for better health and health care." This plan emphasizes the importance of patient-oriented research and the need to facilitate, whenever appropriate, the translation of discoveries in basic and clinical research into products or practice, to ensure that the benefits of research have a direct impact on the health of Canadians. At this juncture, we must emphasize the importance of the 'Open Grants Competition' that provides vital support to so many research colleagues affiliated with INMHA. We remain firmly committed to supporting this vital program and see it as a wellspring from which major improvements in health research continue to flow.

The Expert Review Team (ERT) report for INMHA and the CIHR International Review Panel Report are now posted on the CIHR website. INMHA is most appreciative of the ERT Report and its recognition of many successful and transformative aspects of INMHA's activities including our high profile neurosciences programs (e.g., Regenerative Medicine and Nanomedicine and the recent Signature Initiative in Epigenetics); our international collaborations with China and European countries; and our unique and innovative Neuroethics Initiative. INMHA recognizes the need to develop a strong and re-invigorated communications strategy directed towards all our stakeholders, and we are currently developing a communications plan to address the gaps identified by the ERT. It will include reorganisation of our website, the use of new software for the distribution of INMHA news and for receiving feedback from our research and stakeholder community, and a regular schedule for our newsletter "The Brain Brief." We are pleased to work with an improved corporate communication infrastructure at CIHR to undertake a number of activities including Cafés Scientifique and journalist workshops that will spotlight INMHA's strategic initiatives, and we will develop media relations products including expert alerts and timely press releases. As well, INHMA intends to work more closely with the CIHR Knowledge Translation branch to ensure that communications not only reach the public but also have the opportunity to inform federal and provincial health decision-making and policy.

Thanks to outstanding work by INMHA staff, the "Canadian Epigenetics, Environment and Health Research Consortium" Signature Initiative has gone from concept to reality, as you will see from reading the timely update below. On the international front, CIHR-INMHA has become a formal member of the International Human Epigenome Consortium Executive Steering Committee and will be representing Canada at the next meeting of the Steering Committee in early October in Amsterdam. Please check INMHA's website for regular updates.

Don't forget to check out The Brain from Top to Bottom, our popular science web site on the brain and human behaviour that explores the fascinating field of neuroscience without sacrificing any of its complexity. Funded by INMHA, The Brain from Top to Bottom is designed both as a bridge between scientists and the general public and as a tool to help us better understand ourselves.

Institute/Initiative Activities

Canadian Epigenetics, Environment and Health Research Consortium (CEEHRC)

We wish to inform you of three exciting CIHR Funding Opportunities in the field of Epigenetics, offered through the Canadian Epigenetics, Environment and Health Research Consortium (CEEHRC). CEEHRC is one of CIHR's new Signature Initiatives, which are designed to have the strongest possible impact on health and health care.

The first three CEEHRC Funding Opportunities currently launched are:

Please note: CEEHRC plans to launch a number of dedicated epigenetics funding opportunities over the next several years, such as an Emerging Team grant funding opportunity, to help translate epigenetic research discoveries into practical outcomes. This opportunity is expected to provide broad support for health/disease-focused teams, including both hypothesis-driven and population-based approaches in epigenetics.

CEEHRC Epigenomics Platform: This Funding Opportunity is to support the development of a National Epigenomics Platform, comprised of several Epigenomic Mapping Centres (EMCs) and one Epigenomic Data Coordination Centre (EDCC). It is expected that these centres will form key nodes of the larger CEEHRC initiative. This Funding Opportunity targets existing genome sequencing centres across Canada, where there is already a critical mass of genomic research expertise and platforms for genomic mapping available for direct application to epigenomics research.

Funding available:

The total amount available for this funding opportunity is up to $13,500,000, to support one EDCC and up to three EMCs.

Of this $13,500,000:

  • $12,000,000 is available to fund applications relevant to the Epigenomic Mapping Centres (EMCs). The maximum amount for an EMC is $1,200,000 per year for up to five years.
  • $1,500,000 is available to fund applications relevant to the Epigenomic Data Coordination Centre. The maximum amount for the EDCC is $300,000 per year for up to five years.
  • Genome Quebec and Genome BC will contribute a portion of the funding to successful applications in Quebec and BC, based on each organization's funds available.

Registration deadline: September 29, 2011
Application deadline: November 1, 2011

CEEHRC Catalyst Grant:
This Funding Opportunity is to support the development of innovative new technologies and approaches that have the potential to transform how epigenetics research is performed. This may include small scale projects for the identification and validation of new epigenetic marks and related compounds (e.g. antibodies, chemical markers, etc), the development of appropriate tools to discover and monitor epigenetic changes, and research into the mechanisms underlying the heritability of epigenetic marks. It is expected that the outcomes of this Catalyst Grant Funding Opportunity will inform other activities of the CEEHRC initiative, including potentially the Epigenomic Mapping Centres (EMCs) funded through the CEEHRC Epigenomics Platform.

Funding available:

The total amount available for this funding opportunity is $1,000,000, enough to fund approximately ten grants. The maximum amount per grant is $100,000 for up to one year.

Registration deadline: September 30, 2011
Application deadline: November 1, 2011

CEEHRC Epigenetics Fellowship:
As part of their commitment to the Canadian Epigenetics, Environment and Health Research Consortium (CEEHRC), the CIHR Institute of Neurosciences, Mental Health and Addiction (INMHA) has launched a Priority Announcement in Epigenetics on the Fall 2011 Fellowship funding opportunity. CIHR-INMHA will provide funding for an application that supports research in epigenetics relevant to human health and disease.

Application deadline: October 3, 2011

CAN 2011
The Canadian Association for Neuroscience (CAN) Annual Meeting was held in Quebec City from May 29 to June 1, 2011. CIHR-INMHA had a booth at the meeting and sponsored the opening reception.


Dr. Brian MacVicar,
Past President, CAN and
Dr. Yves de Koninck, President, CAN

2010 Brain Star Award Winners
Three Brain Star Award Winners attended the CAN 2011 Meeting and presented their research:
Katya Park, Eric Trudel and Aristotle Voineskos.


Brain Star Winners -
Eric Trudel, Katya Park, Aristotle Voineskos –
with INMHA Institute Advisory Board Chair, Dr. Ravi Menon

INMHA sponsored the 2010 Brain Star Awards which provided $1000 to the top three applicants plus sponsors their attendance at a Canadian conference of their choice. The top applicant is honoured further with the 'Marlene Reimer Brain Star of the Year Award' with this year's recipient being Katya Park for her paper "p75NTR-dependent, myelin-mediated axonal degeneration regulates neural connectivity in the adult
brain."

For more information on the 2011 Brain Star Award program, please visit the INMHA website.

"Being awarded the Marlene Reimer Brain Star award has truly been an honour... a large amount of work goes into a publication, so it was nice to receive acknowledgement of this process, and confirmation that the investment was a good one. The experience ...gave me the opportunity to come to the Canadian Neurosciences meeting, a meeting that I would have not come to originally because I am just new in my postdoctoral position. Not only did I get to attend the meeting, but I was given a very wonderful and unique opportunity to present my work to my peers and to an audience of very accomplished people. Thank you for this opportunity, and for the kind words that were used to introduce me."
- Katya J Park, Postdoctoral Fellow
Laboratory of Dr. Andrew Baker, Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute,
St Michael's Hospital, Toronto, Ontario

The Dr. Samarthji Lal Award for Mental Health Research by the Graham Boeckh Foundation
The Dr. Samarthji Lal Award recognizes researchers working in Canadian institutions in the area of psychiatry, with a focus on major mental disorders, who are mid-career and making outstanding contributions to the field. Recipients demonstrate excellence in scientific rigor, excellence and promise in research outcomes, and innovative, "out-of-the-box" thinking. The Canadian College of Neuropsychopharmacology and INMHA are strategic partners on this award.

This year's winner, Dr. Ridha Joober, completed his medical training in Tunisia, his psychiatry training in Paris at l'Hôpital Sainte-Anne and his PhD in genetics at McGill University. As a major research focus, Dr. Joober has compared the genetic make-up and neuropsychological impairments of schizophrenics at opposite ends of the spectrum--those who respond to neuroleptic treatments and those who fail to respond. In so doing, Dr. Joober has developed a more precise pharmaco-genetic profile of schizophrenia that may ultimately lead to the earlier diagnosis and more effective treatment of this debilitating mental disease.

Dr. Joober was central in establishing the First Episode Schizophrenia Clinic at the Douglas Hospital and is currently its Associate Director. In one of the letters of support for the award, Dr. Joober is described as "the epitome of what Dr. Lal would have considered an ideal clinician-scientist made very much in Dr. Lal's image--passionate about knowledge, working tirelessly with patients and students."

Brain Bee Winners

Grade 12 student from Toronto wins best brain in Canada! 13 students across Canada competed for the best brain in Canada on May 28, 2011 in Hamilton at the fourth annual CIHR Canadian National Brain Bee. CIHR-RMNI Associate Director Dr. Eric Marcotte (back row, right) and Dr. Judith Shedden, the organizer of the event, (middle row, left) stand among some of the brightest brains in Canada during the fourth annual CIHR Canadian National Brain Bee Championship at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario.


The top three Brain Bee winners were Soohyun Park (middle),
Dave Saraswat (left), and George Charchoghylan (right)

Institute Advisory Board (IAB)
In common with each of CIHR's 13 Institutes, INMHA benefits enormously from an outstanding Institute Advisory Board (IAB) with members drawn from the public, private and non‐profit sectors, including key members of the research community in the fields of preclinical and clinical neuroscience, the senses, mental health and addiction fields affiliated with our Institute. Each year the INMHA IAB meets in person at sites across Canada and provides valuable advice across a wide range of issues to the Scientific Director and Assistant Directors, Drs. Elizabeth Theriault and Nathalie Gendron. Through wide-ranging, open and lively discussion, these meetings develop policy and strategic plans designed to deliver maximum impact for our stakeholders. Each member of the IAB serves as an ambassador for INMHA in their home organizations and within their geographic regions. Of particular importance is their role in developing partnerships, community links and engagement of relevant stakeholders throughout the research community and with public.

INMHA's IAB members played a key role in preparing the Institute for the International Review, and now as we embark upon the development of the third Strategic Plan, their input and sage advice will continue to shape and refine INMHA's plans over the next 5 years. Dr. Ravi Menon who joined the IAB in 2004 and served as Chair for the past 4 years (which included an additional year to help steward the Institute through the International Review) deserves special mention for his outstanding leadership throughout his term. I am also pleased to announce that INMHA's new IAB Chair will be Dr. Isabelle Brunette, and to extend a warm welcome to the following newest IAB members Dr. Gustavo Turecki, Dr. Sherry Stewart and Dr. Karen Davis. The profiles of all of INMHA's IAB members can be viewed at the INMHA website.


Dr. Paul Lasko, Scientific Director, Institute of Genetics
Dr. Tony Phillips, Scientific Director, INMHA
Dr. Ravi Menon, Chair, INMHA Institute Advisory Board
in Montreal, August 2011, at Ravi's last meeting as IAB Chair.

Regenerative Medicine and Nanomedicine Initiative (RMNI)
Given the large investment in RMNI by CIHR, the CIHR Scientific Council has requested a full evaluation of the initiative. This evaluation is currently well underway, and future funding opportunities are on hold pending the outcome. An extensive range of tools are being used to assess the performance and success of the initiative, including comprehensive bibliometric analyses, detailed surveys of funded researchers, interviews with key stakeholders, and a number of individual case studies. If contacted by the CIHR Evaluation unit or its delegates, we urge you to provide as detailed responses as possible.

International Activities

Clinical Intervention Networks in Addiction

In keeping with Inmha's mandate to support research that enhances our understanding of addictive disorders, we have begun to develop a Clinical Intervention Network in Addiction (CIN-A) that will align with the successful Clinical Trials Network established over 10 years ago by the US National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA). INMHA is currently actively engaged with NIDA to ensure that the infrastructure of the Canadian network nodes allows them to participate in NIDA-led trials. In addition INMHA is working with NIDA to provide fellowship training and joint visiting scientist exchange opportunities. By supporting Canadians to learn best practices at NIDA's Clinical Intervention Networks across the US we will build capacity in support of the CIN-A program. RFAs announcing these opportunities will be posted on the CIHR and INMHA websites.

China-Canada Joint Health Research Initiative (2011-2015)

There were 44 eligible applications received for the March 15, 2011 deadline. The terms under the new MOU are as previously agreed upon: to fund a total of 15 new teams in this competition at $75K/yr for 3 years ($225K max CAD) plus an equivalent amount in RMB for the Chinese. These applications will be peer reviewed and funding decisions made at the annual Joint Peer Review/Selection Committee meetings in Shanghai September 11-14, 2011. INMHA will co-chair the annual Planning Meeting and the Institute of Nutrition, Metabolism and Diabetes has co-organized the Scientific Workshop on Diabetes. Next year's Scientific Workshop will be on focused on cancer.

There were 4 eligible applications to the China-Canada Alzheimer's Disease and Related Disorders large team program.

Applications will be peer reviewed and funding decisions made at a separate Joint Peer Review/Selection Committee meeting in Shanghai. The funding envelope is CAD $4,000,000 from CIHR and 12,000,000 RMB from NSFC. For Canadian researchers, the maximum amount per project is CAD $250,000 per year for up to four years.

Japan Science and Technology Agency

On November 9, 2010, the Canada-Japan Joint Committee (CJJC) on S&T cooperation met in Ottawa. The CJJC is the bilateral coordinating body that oversees the implementation of the Canada-Japan S&T Agreement. A key feature of the CJJC discussions in November was the tabling of proposals by each country to establish a new cooperation platform to guide future bilateral activities. In the area of life sciences, both proposals included "stem cells and regenerative medicine" as a target subsector for cooperation. The President's Office has asked that INMHA be the strategic Institute lead on programs with Japan. Therefore as a follow-up to the CJJC meeting in November in collaboration with CIHR's International Relations branch we organized a meeting with the Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST) on June 17, 2011 in Toronto to discuss opportunities for a bilateral CIHR-JST program. At this meeting there were officials from JST, the Japanese Ministry for Science, Technology, Education, Sports and Culture (MEXT), the Embassy of Japan in Ottawa, the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, and CIHR (Paul Lasko (SD, Genetics), Eric Marcotte, Elizabeth Theriault, and Daniele St.-Jean from International Relations, CIHR).

JST and CIHR jointly agreed to work towards funding up to 3 teams in the area of the epigenetics of stem cells. It is proposed that successful Canadian teams would receive $400K per year for five years and the Japanese component of the bilateral team would receive $500K per year for five years for a total investment of $6.0M from CIHR and $7.5M from JST. The Canadian teams will be funded through the CEEHRC Team Grant RFA, with an expected launch in Fall 2011 and funding to begin in January 2013.

ERA-Net NEURON II

INMHA has recently received official news that NEURON II has been renewed until 2016 and that INMHA is an official partner organization, as is FRSQ. Elizabeth Theriault is the Institute lead on this file and when possible will attend Steering Committee and Work Plan meetings to represent INMHA. The next meeting of the Steering and Peer Review Committees will be held in mid-September; CIHR will be represented there by Program Delivery staff. Canadians have been involved in the reviews of the LOI and the full application stages. Elizabeth will attend the Steering Committee Meeting in mid-October in Brussels, which will include the Final Symposium on "Neurodegeneration" and a mid-term symposium on "New Technologies", as well as the Decision Call on "Stroke".

INMHA's commitment to the current Joint Transnational Call on "International Research Projects on Cerebrovascular Diseases (2011-2014)" is to support 2-3 teams at $75K/yr for the 3 year awards (max of $225K/grant). The Program was announced January 2011 on the CIHR website; LOIs were received March 9, with funding for the successful teams to begin February 2012. Of the 57 full applications received 25% of the teams had Canadian team members (n=14). Under the terms of the agreement with ERA-Net NEURON INMHA has the flexibility of opting in or out, depending on the focus of the annual call and availability of funds.

These NEURON Joint Transnational Calls require applications to be submitted by a consortium comprised of several partners (up to 7 partners are accepted) from at least three different countries (maximum 5). Therefore the consortium may have more than one partner per country. Accordingly, INMHA led discussions with the FRSQ and informally agreed to co-fund applications in which one consortium with two Canadian partners could be supported by both agencies if at least one of the two partners is from Quebec. In the 2011 call, 9 applications were directed to CIHR and 5 to FRSQ, with an overlap of 3. In all three cases, one partner was from Quebec and the other was from another province.

EU-NIH International Consortium on Traumatic Brain Injury

At a March 2011 meeting in Brussels between CIHR representatives and their EU counterparts a $50M International Initiative on Traumatic Brain Injury was described. This project was initially conceived as a collaboration between the Research and Innovation Directorate of the EU and the National Institute of Stroke Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) at the NIH through FP7 programme-level cooperation, but remains open to other funding agencies. At that meeting Tony expressed strong interest in establishing a role for Canada in this initiative and INMHA (on behalf of Canada) has since been formally welcomed to join in as the third country. Tony and Elizabeth will attend the next meeting in October 2011 that will explore ways of strengthening international cooperation between existing infrastructures and programs, and how the partners will work together to define the common goals and methodologies.

In addition INMHA has begun to engage key national stakeholders in Canada and we are pleased to report that the Ontario Neurotrauma Foundation and the Hotchkiss Brain Institute will join INMHA as inaugural partners on this timely and exciting opportunity to establish a national Canadian TBI initiative. This partnership will be further enhanced by its formal role on the Steering Committee of the "International Initiative on Traumatic Brain Injury." More details will be forth-coming in our next newsletter.

FINLAND – NIDA – IHDCYH - INMHA

CIHR's Institute of Human Development, Child and Youth Health (IHDCYH) has taken the lead in organizing a workshop on "The Early Origins of Addiction" to be held in Toronto, October 17-18, 2011 at the Hilton Hotel. The Academy of Finland, NIH's National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) and CIHR (IHDCYH and INMHA) are co-sponsoring this event to explore opportunities and challenges for promoting effective research on the early origins of addiction. This particular meeting is also intended to highlight a number of ongoing Finnish-Canadian research programs in addictions and in the early origins of mental health that INMHA and IHDCYH have supported with the Academy of Finland. It is also intended to provide an opportunity to strengthen networking and collaboration among researchers from Canada, the US, and Finland. A major objective of the one and a half day meeting is to identify research strengths, gaps and opportunities in the area of early origins of addiction, and to explore the possibilities of establishing a tri-lateral international research agenda in the area of addiction. There will be approximately 40 participants and keynote speakers confirmed to date include Michael Krausz, Eric Nestler, and Jaako Kaprio.

Upcoming Events

6th International Conference on Creative Expression, Communication and Dementia
Being held at the Waterfront Hotel in Burlington, Ontario, October 3 & 4, 2011, with pre-conference workshops on October 2, 2011. The overall theme of the conference is Health, Aging and the Creative Arts. For more information on the conference please log on to CECD website.

Issues of Substance 2011 Conference
The Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse will hold its National Conference, Issues of Substance 2011, in Vancouver, BC from November 6-9, 2011.

Society for Neuroscience Annual Meeting (Neuroscience 2011)
The Society for Neuroscience will hold its annual meeting "Neuroscience 2011" in Washington, DC from November 12 – 16, 2011.

Canadian Association for Neuroscience Conference (CAN 2012)
CAN 2012 will be held in May 20-23, 2012 in Vancouver, BC.

Canadian College of Neuropschopharmacology (CCNP 2012)
CCNP 2012 will be held in May 23-26, 2012 at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC.

Funding Opportunities - INMHA

Canadian Epigenetics, Environment and Health Research Consortium (CEEHRC) opportunities:

Doctoral Research Award: Fall 2011 Priority Announcement
In the areas of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), Huntington's Disease, and Parkinson's Disease

Fellowship: Fall 2011 Priority Announcement
In the areas of Huntington's Disease, Industrial Research in Neuroinflammation, and Fellowship in Depression Research and Intervention. Also, INMHA is partnering with the Small Health Organization Partnership Program in the areas of Dystonia and Fragile X.

Brain Star Award, Institute Community Support (ICS) Program

Funding Decisions

Congratulations

A warm welcome to Dr. Yves Joanette, incoming Scientific Director of the Institute of Aging; INMHA looks forward to continuing our close working relationship with the Institute of Aging in several areas including the International Collaborative Research Strategy on Alzheimer's Disease (ICRSAD), one of the eight CIHR Roadmap Signature Initiatives.

We all wish Dr. Anne Martin-Matthews all the best in her future endeavours and recognize her remarkable legacy created during her seven-plus years as Scientific Director of the Institute of Aging.

Congratulations go to INMHA's inaugural Scientific Director, Dr. Remi Quirion on his recent career move to Chief Scientist of Quebec. Fond regards to Astrid Eberhart, who almost singlehandedly oversaw the development of ICRSAD from concept to reality, as she transitions to other duties.