Proof-of-Principle

The Weston Family Foundation has been supporting research studying the microbiome for seven years. In recent years, there has been a surge of interest and investment in understanding the role of the microbiome in human health and disease, yet we are only beginning to understand the potential implications of the microbiome in healthy aging.

The Proof-of-Principle (POP) is a funding program, through the Weston Family Microbiome Initiative, meant to provide support of Canadian research efforts on the microbiome, focusing on advancing the application of the microbiome in improving human health. With three funding calls (2023, 2024, and 2025) and for each call, total available funding up to 300,000 over 30 months.

The most recent Proof-of-Principle program funding was announced in 2023: The Microbiome & Precision Nutrition. The human body is host to trillions of microbes. Research suggests that these organisms play important roles in health and disease and have a profound bearing on nutrition.

The Proof-of-Principle 2023: Microbiome & Precision Nutrition program aimed to understand how the microbiome influences the impact of diet on human health with a focus on precision nutrition.

To learn more about the projects that received funding in 2023 please visit this link.

The Proof-of-Principle 2024 program will provide research grants of up to $300,000 over a maximum of 30 months to support high-impact projects that seek to leverage the microbiome to maximize the health benefits of biomarkers of disease and therapeutic response.

To learn more about the POP 2024 funding opportunity visit the grant call.

Stay tuned for more information about the Proof-of-Principle 2025 funding opportunity. Follow us on LinkedIn for updates

Proof-of-Principle 2024: Microbial biomarkers of disease and therapeutic response

Program Overview

The Weston Family Foundation, through its Proof-of-Principle program, funds Canadian scientists performing high-risk, high-reward translational research that leverages the microbiome towards improving human health.

Biomarkers are a critical component of modern healthcare, with diverse applications in disease prevention, detection and monitoring, as well as therapeutic development. They are poised to play an increasingly important role in personalized medicine, providing means to estimate an individual’s disease risk and prognosis, and predict and monitor an individual’s response to a given therapy.

Emerging research suggests that the microbiome is a potentially understudied source for biomarkers that holds significant potential for predicting and understanding individual responses to therapeutic or preventative strategies. Consequently, there may be opportunities to manipulate or target the microbiome to enhance an individual’s response to these strategies. 

The Foundation is pleased to announce the launch of a new funding opportunity to address these key areas in microbiome research. The Proof-of-Principle 2024 program aims to support high-impact projects that seek to identify, validate, or apply microbiome-based biomarkers of disease and therapeutic response.

Eligible projects will:

  • Evaluate compositional or functional microbiome biomarkers.
  • Build on established responder/non-responder phenotypes towards the optimization of therapeutic or preventative strategies.

Please refer to the Program Details for a full description.

Funding available per project: Up to $300,000 over a maximum of 30 months.

Important dates:

  • Program information session:  May 1, 2024 register here or May 7, 2024 register here
  • Letter of Intent deadline: June 4, 2024 apply here
  • Award announcement: October 2024

For more information about this program, including details on project and applicant eligibility, Foundation definitions, program review criteria and expected project outcomes, please see the relevant documents below.

We welcome you to contact us with any program related inquiries. Please send your questions to microbiome@westonfoundation.ca.

Relevant Documents

Rapid Response 2024 program

Program Overview

Letter of Intent deadline: April 30, 2024, at 2:00pm EST

The Weston Family Foundation aims to catalyze and scale science-based approaches to significantly improve the health and well-being of Canadians. The Foundation takes a leadership role in tackling large problems that are under-addressed by supporting research that is particularly relevant to the health of Canadians and that empowers Canadians to improve their health and wellbeing.

The Foundation, through its Weston Brain Institute is pleased to announce the re-launch of our flagship Rapid Response program designed to provide seed funding to catalyze novel, high-risk, high-reward translational research that accelerates the development of therapeutics or tools for neurodegenerative diseases of aging.

Program details:

Eligible projects should:

  • Be translational research that can accelerate therapeutic or tool development for neurodegenerative diseases of aging (NDAs), as defined by the Institute.
    • Therapeutics should address unmet needs in the prevention, treatment and/or symptomatic management of NDAs.
    • Tools should address challenges in translational research to accelerate the development and/or clinical implementation of therapeutics for NDAs (e.g., biomarkers, drug delivery systems). Projects covering only the discovery/identification of a tool are considered out of scope.
  • Have preliminary data to support the hypothesis and feasibility of the project.

Funding available per project: Up to $300,000 over 18-24 months.

Important dates:

  • Program information session: April 2, 2024 at 1pm ET – Register Here
  • Letter of Intent deadline: April 30, 2024
  • Award announcement: November 2024

For more information about this program, including details on project and applicant eligibility, institute definitions (for translational research, NDAs, therapeutics, tools), program review criteria and expected project outcomes, please see the relevant documents below.

We welcome you to contact us with any program-related inquiries including questions about the eligibility or fit of your project. Please send your questions to Teenu Sanjeevan, Senior Program Manager, at teenu.sanjeevan@westonfoundation.ca

Relevant documents:

Congratulations to recipients of the CIHR Knowledge Synthesis and Mobilization Grants

The Weston Family Foundation is proud to have supported the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) “Brain Health and Reduction of Risk for Age-related Cognitive Impairment: Knowledge Synthesis and Mobilization Grant” which is part of the Brain Health and Cognitive Impairment in Aging (BHCIA) Research Initiative led by the CIHR Institute of Aging.

Launched last year, a total of 16 projects awarded will share more than $1.5 million in funding to assess the current state of knowledge and identify strengths and gaps in research areas related to the promotion of brain health and risk reduction for dementia and other age-related cognitive impairment. You can learn more about all the projects funded here.

Through the “Lifestyle Approaches to reduce the risk of neurodegenerative diseases of aging (LAR)” pool, the Foundation is excited to support the work of Dr. Cindy Barha, Dr. Zahra Goodarzi, and Dr. Laura Middleton.

Follow-on Funding 2023 Program

The Weston Family Foundation, through the Weston Brain Institute, supports research that accelerates the development of therapeutics for neurodegenerative diseases of aging (NDAs). The Institute provides seed-funding to high-risk, high reward ideas through its core “Spark-phase” programs. However, given the long development timeline to real-world impact of medical innovations for NDAs, additional investments are needed to scale successful projects coming out of the seed-funding programs towards clinical impact.

The Follow-on Funding (FOF) program was created to provide additional funding to current or past Institute grantees to kick-start the scaling of innovations and technologies that have been previously identified and validated.

In 2023, two projects were awarded approximately $1.5 million each under the FOF program. 

Pedro Rosa Neto, MD, PhD (Principal Investigator); Yasser Iturria-Medina, PhD (Co-Principal Investigator)

Project Title: Tracking the progression of neuroinflammation and tau aggregates in Alzheimer’s Disease

Dr. Pedro Rosa Neto is an Associate Professor of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry at McGill University, affiliated to the Douglas Research Centre.

Dr. Yasser Iturria-Medina is an Assistant Professor of Neurology and Neurosurgery at McGill University.

Through a previous Weston Family Foundation grant, Dr. Rosa Neto and his team found that inflammatory responses suspected to accelerate brain damage in Alzheimer’s disease (AD), play a crucial role in the spreading of tau pathology across brain regions, leading to cognitive decline. Further details about this conclusion can be found in the following publications: Nature Medicine 2023 and JAMA Neurology 2023, among others.

For his Follow-on Funding project, Dr. Rosa Neto aims to better characterize the natural history of these neuroinflammatory responses by conducting an additional 3-year follow-up of participants recruited in his previous research grant. Clinical, imaging, and fluid biomarker data will be collected and analyzed using advanced artificial intelligence techniques, in collaboration with co-PI Dr. Iturria-Medina.  The study will provide important insights on how to design effective therapeutic interventions to mitigate the progression of AD.  

Susan Fox, MD (Principal Investigator), Jonathan Brotchie, PhD (Co-Principal Investigator), Patrick Howson, PhD (Co-Principal Investigator)

Project Title: Development of the combination of trehalose and tannic acid as a treatment for Parkinson’s disease

Dr. Fox is Head of the Division of Neurology at UHN and Sinai Health System. She holds the Krembil Family Chair in Neurology, is the Professor of Neurology at the University of Toronto and is the Associate Director of the Movement Disorders Clinic, Toronto Western Hospital.  

Dr. Jonathan Brotchie is the Chief Executive Officer of Atuka Inc. He was previously a Senior Scientist at UHN from 2002 – 2023.

Dr. Patrick Howson is the Chief Innovation Officer at Atuka Inc.

Previous studies have suggested that trehalose, a sugar compound, can effectively target toxic proteins in several animal models of Parkinson’s disease (PD).  However, larger doses of trehalose to treat people with PD may increase the risk of metabolic disorders, such as diabetes.  Through a previous Weston Family Foundation grant, Dr. Brotchie and his team investigated whether it would be possible to increase trehalose levels in the blood and brain by inhibiting trehalase, the enzyme that breaks down trehalose. Their results showed that this approach is both safe and efficacious.

For the Follow-on Funding project, the research team aims to determine the appropriate dose of trehalose and tannic acid (trehalase inhibitor) and validate the safety of the selected dose. This study embarks on the critical first steps to move trehalose forward as a potential treatment for PD and possibly other neurodegenerative diseases.

Congratulations to the grant recipients of the Follow-on Funding 2023 Program

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The Weston Family Foundation, through the Weston Brain Institute, supports research that accelerates the development of therapeutics for neurodegenerative diseases of aging (NDAs). The Institute provides seed-funding to high-risk, high reward ideas through its core “Spark-phase” programs. However, given the long development timeline to real-world impact of medical innovations for NDAs, additional investments are needed to scale successful projects coming out of the seed-funding programs towards clinical impact.

The Follow-on Funding (FOF) program was created to provide additional funding to current or past Institute grantees to kick-start the scaling of innovations and technologies that have been previously identified and validated.

In 2023, two projects were awarded approximately $1.5 million each under the FOF program. 

Pedro Rosa Neto, MD, PhD (Principal Investigator); Yasser Iturria-Medina, PhD (Co-Principal Investigator)

Project Title: Tracking the progression of neuroinflammation and tau aggregates in Alzheimer’s Disease

Dr. Pedro Rosa Neto is an Associate Professor of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry at McGill University, affiliated to the Douglas Research Centre.

Dr. Yasser Iturria-Medina is an Assistant Professor of Neurology and Neurosurgery at McGill University.

Through a previous Weston Family Foundation grant, Dr. Rosa Neto and his team found that inflammatory responses suspected to accelerate brain damage in Alzheimer’s disease (AD), play a crucial role in the spreading of tau pathology across brain regions, leading to cognitive decline. Further details about this conclusion can be found in the following publications: Nature Medicine 2023 and JAMA Neurology 2023, among others.

For his Follow-on Funding project, Dr. Rosa Neto aims to better characterize the natural history of these neuroinflammatory responses by conducting an additional 3-year follow-up of participants recruited in his previous research grant. Clinical, imaging, and fluid biomarker data will be collected and analyzed using advanced artificial intelligence techniques, in collaboration with co-PI Dr. Iturria-Medina.  The study will provide important insights on how to design effective therapeutic interventions to mitigate the progression of AD.  

Susan Fox, MD (Principal Investigator), Jonathan Brotchie, PhD (Co-Principal Investigator), Patrick Howson, PhD (Co-Principal Investigator)

Project Title: Development of the combination of trehalose and tannic acid as a treatment for Parkinson’s disease

Dr. Fox is Head of the Division of Neurology at UHN and Sinai Health System. She holds the Krembil Family Chair in Neurology, is the Professor of Neurology at the University of Toronto and is the Associate Director of the Movement Disorders Clinic, Toronto Western Hospital.  

Dr. Jonathan Brotchie is the Chief Executive Officer of Atuka Inc. He was previously a Senior Scientist at UHN from 2002 – 2023.

Dr. Patrick Howson is the Chief Innovation Officer at Atuka Inc.

Previous studies have suggested that trehalose, a sugar compound, can effectively target toxic proteins in several animal models of Parkinson’s disease (PD).  However, larger doses of trehalose to treat people with PD may increase the risk of metabolic disorders, such as diabetes.  Through a previous Weston Family Foundation grant, Dr. Brotchie and his team investigated whether it would be possible to increase trehalose levels in the blood and brain by inhibiting trehalase, the enzyme that breaks down trehalose. Their results showed that this approach is both safe and efficacious.

For the Follow-on Funding project, the research team aims to determine the appropriate dose of trehalose and tannic acid (trehalase inhibitor) and validate the safety of the selected dose. This study embarks on the critical first steps to move trehalose forward as a potential treatment for PD and possibly other neurodegenerative diseases.

Proof-of-Principle 2023: The Microbiome and Precision Nutrition

Program Overview

The Weston Family Foundation, through its Proof-of-Principle program, funds Canadian scientists performing high-risk, high-reward translational research that leverages the microbiome towards improving human health.

The human body is host to trillions of microbes. Research suggests that these organisms play important roles in health and disease and have a profound bearing on nutrition. The Foundation is pleased to announce the launch of a new funding opportunity. The Proof-of-Principle 2023 program will support high-impact projects that seek to leverage the microbiome to maximize the health benefits of precision nutrition.

Eligibile projects will:

  • Leverage the microbiome to maximize the benefits of nutrition in people.
  • Evaluate microbiome heterogeneity and how it impacts nutrient metabolism in humans.

Please refer to the Program Details for a full description.

Funding available per project: Up to $300,000 over a maximum of 30 months.

Important dates:

  • Program information session:  June 14, register here or July 5, 2023 register here
  • Letter of Intent deadline: August 1, 2023 apply here
  • Award announcement: November 2023

For more information about this program, including details on project and applicant eligibility, Foundation definitions, program review criteria and expected project outcomes, please see the relevant documents below.

We welcome you to contact us with any program related inquiries. Please send your questions to microbiome@westonfoundation.ca.

Relevant Documents

Brain Health: Sleep 2023 program

Program Overview

The Weston Family Foundation, through the Weston Brain Institute, aims to catalyze and scale science-based approaches to significantly improve the health and well-being of Canadians. There is growing evidence that making key lifestyle changes may reduce the risk of brain diseases of aging and slow cognitive decline. 

The Institute is pleased to announce the launch of a new funding opportunity. The Brain Health: Sleep 2023 program seeks to reduce the risk and/or slow the progression of neurodegenerative diseases of aging by accelerating the development of healthy lifestyle approaches relating to sleep.

Project Eligibility:

  • Observational or interventional studies that accelerate the development of sleep-based strategies to improve brain-related outcome measures relevant to (or associated with) neurodegenerative diseases of aging. Projects should generate the evidence-base for the future implementation of better therapeutic interventions, guidelines, and recommendations on sleep.
  • Preliminary data is required for this program.

Please refer to the Program Details for a full description.

Funding available per project: Up to $1,200,000 over 3 years.

Important dates:

  • Program information session:  April 25 or June 6, 2023
  • Letter of Intent deadline: July 11, 2023
  • Award announcement: March 2024

For more information about this program, including details on project and applicant eligibility, institute definitions, program review criteria and expected project outcomes, please see the relevant documents below.

We welcome you to contact us with any program related inquiries. Please send your questions to Rene Prashad, Senior Program Manager, rene.prashad@westonfoundation.ca

Relevant Documents

Sarah Cook

Sarah Cook joined the Weston Family Foundation in January 2022 as a Grants Coordinator. She is responsible for supporting the operational needs of programs related to the Weston Family Microbiome Initiative and Northern Science and Knowledge.

Prior to joining the Foundation, Sarah worked on the Operations and Finance teams for a number of Canadian and international non-profit organizations including the Stephen Lewis Foundation and the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health Foundation.

Sarah holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in International Development Studies and a Postgraduate Certificate in International Development Management.

Marina Thornbury

Marina Thornbury (she/her) joined the Weston Family Foundation in April 2022. As a Grants Coordinator, she is a member of the Operations team and primarily supports the Foundation’s Neuroscience Committee.

Prior to joining the Foundation, Marina worked as an Operations and Volunteer Engagement Assistant with the Society for Neuroscience (SfN), an international membership organization in Washington, DC. Marina holds a Bachelor of Science from St. Lawrence University in Canton, NY, where she studied Neuroscience and Public Health.