Speech from the President: Announcement of the Canadian Consortium on Neurodegeneration in Aging (CCNA)

Montreal, Quebec
September 10, 2014

Thank you Mr. Morin.

As president of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, I am especially delighted to be here this morning at the renowned Lady Davis Institute and McGill University, which I had the pleasure and honour of being associated with for many years.

I first want to thank you, Minister, for being here with us today and for your steadfast support of health innovation this Country.

In December 2013, Prime Minister Cameron called a Summit in London to bring the Health Ministers from the G8 countries to reflect on the serious socioeconomic challenge posed by Alzheimer's disease and related dementias. The Summit led to the issuing of a joint communique, which committed all participating Countries: "to identify a cure or a disease-modifying therapy for dementia by 2025 and to increase collectively and significantly the amount of funding for dementia research to reach that goal."

As you heard from the Minister, 3 months later, Canada's Economic Action Plan allocated funding specifically for: "the creation of the Canadian Consortium on Neurodegeneration in Aging" which is being launched today.

The CCNA's ultimate objective is to find a cure for neurodegenerative diseases, and for that to understand their root causes and pathogenic mechanisms. But as we know, this goal is a long term one. This is why it is critical to also support research: (1) on identifying factors that predispose us to getting these diseases so that we can prevent them; (2) on finding biomarkers that will allow us to diagnose these diseases earlier so that we can delay their onset; and (3) on developing new approaches to long term care, so that we can alleviate sufferings and improve the quality of life of those affected and their caregivers.

As mentioned, today, Minister Ambrose launched the Canadian Consortium on Neurodegeneration in Aging. Its strength is that it will work simultaneously on the fronts just mentioned and that it will do so collaboratively, creating innovative partnerships with stakeholders from all sectors—with the academic sector, certainly, but also with industry, non-profit organizations, philanthropists and patients—to promote the sharing of knowledge, strengths and needs to enable us to go from discovery to innovation, and from the laboratory to industry.

Canada boasts some of the world leaders on Alzheimer's disease and associated dementias. Think, for instance, of the gene discoveries made by Dr. Peter St. George-Hyslop and his colleagues at the University of Toronto, or by Judes Poirier and his team here at McGill.

But too often, these scientists work in isolation.

The strength of the CCNA lies with the way it has mobilized a world-class cadre of researchers, to jointly tackle the challenge posed by neurodegenerative diseases so as to stimulate innovation, increase our competitiveness, and lead us to solutions faster.

Better still, the CCNA teams embrace and integrate the perspectives of research users, policymakers, industries and, of course, patients and families, to identify targeted, achievable challenges that can be delivered in relatively short order.

Today represents a privileged moment to celebrate and catch our breath as we move forward with this exciting, original, and much needed research venture.

Thank you again, Minister Ambrose, for the Government of Canada's unflagging support for research on dementia.

And, thank you to our partners from the private sector, and from the health charities such as the Alzheimer Society of Canada, whom I'm pleased to acknowledge the presence here today.

Lastly, thank you to the Fonds de recherche du Québec – Santé, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, and which was one of CIHR's first partners in Alzheimer's research.

We are all very eager to see the work that will come out of the Consortium in the coming months and years.

Thank you.

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