$8M in funding awarded for crucial brain health research

As part of its commitment to decreasing neurodegenerative diseases of aging and improving the well-being of Canadians, the Weston Family Foundation is pleased to announce nearly $8 million in funding for brain-health research.

In November 2020, the Foundation launched Brain Health: 2021 – Lifestyle Approaches and Microbiome Contributions. The program, jointly run by the Weston Brain Institute and the Weston Family Microbiome Initiative, was designed to support projects examining the impact of lifestyle and the microbiome on the maintenance of optimal brain health, and specifically the prevention or delay of neurodegenerative diseases of aging, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. Applications for the program were reviewed by a panel of international experts and four projects were selected to receive funding:

In addition to the above grants, an additional $1.8 million was awarded to six grantees through the Weston Family Microbiome Initiative Proof-of-Principle program. The awarded projects seek to leverage the microbiome to improve diverse aspects of brain health, including combatting Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Multiple Sclerosis, improving mental health, and supporting cognitive development in early-life.

These grants follow on the footsteps of $12 million in Foundation funding to the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging (CLSA) for a new brain-health initiative announced in November 2021.

The Healthy Brains, Healthy Aging Initiative will augment the CLSA platform, and marks the first time a national study of aging in Canada has introduced both brain imaging and microbiome analyses to investigate cognitive aging in the population over time. Read more about the Healthy Brains, Healthy Aging Initiative here.

Resham Chhabra, PhD, BCMAS

Resham Chhabra joined the Weston Family Foundation in November of 2021. She is responsible for managing the Foundation’s neuroscience programs.

Prior to joining the Foundation, she was a postdoctoral fellow at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine where she worked on various projects and obtained a highly competitive research grant award to investigate pathological risk factors for Alzheimer’s Disease.

Resham has a PhD in Molecular Medicine with a focus on Neuroscience and Nanomedicine from Ulm University (Germany), and a Master of Science in Neuroscience with a specialization in Neurodegeneration from King’s College London (England).

$12M awarded to give researchers new tools to advance healthy aging science

The Weston Family Foundation is pleased to announce $12 million in funding to the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging (CLSA), hosted at McMaster University, for a new initiative that will shed light on the many factors that influence brain health as we age, including lifestyle and the human microbiome.  

The Healthy Brains, Healthy Aging Initiative will feature a cohort of 6,000 research participants who are currently enrolled in the CLSA. It marks the first time a national study of aging in Canada has introduced both brain imaging and microbiome analyses to investigate cognitive aging in the population over time.

The goal of the six-year initiative is to enhance the CLSA platform with longitudinal data from magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the brain and microbiome analyses of the gut, to help researchers examine how diverse lifestyle, medical, psychosocial, economic, and environmental factors as well as changes in the microbiome correlate with healthy aging outcomes.

The Weston Family Foundation mission

As part of its overall giving strategy, the Weston Family Foundation dedicates funding to catalyze and scale science-based approaches to improve the health and well-being of Canadians as they age. Specifically, the Foundation aims for more Canadians maintaining optimal health with aging; decreased economic burden of diseases of aging in Canada; and more Canadians equipped with knowledge and strategies to maintain optimal health and independence.

Potential breakthroughs as a result of data gathered by the Healthy Brains, Healthy Aging Initiative will not only improve the health of Canadians as they age, but will generate research evidence to inform policy and programs that increase the agency of Canadians on their own health outcomes.

Click here for more info.

Press release: Announcing the Healthy Brains, Healthy Aging Initiative

Nearly $10 million in grants awarded to neuroscience researchers across Canada

The Weston Family Foundation, through its Weston Brain Institute, is awarding $9.8 million in funding to researchers through the Rapid Response, Transformational Research, Early Phase Clinical Trials, and Follow-on Funding programs.

These researchers are pursuing novel, high-risk, high-reward translational research in neurodegenerative diseases of aging at research institutions across Canada. The grants cover a wide range of research projects from prevention, to detection, to treatment.

Neurodegenerative diseases of aging are among the least understood and most undertreated diseases today, making them one of the greatest healthcare challenges of the 21st century. Worldwide, over 50 million people are believed to be living with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias. By 2050, rates could exceed 120 million. 

With this new funding, the Foundation has now awarded more than $95 million through the Weston Brain Institute toward the goal of catalyzing and scaling science-based approaches to significantly improve the health and well-being of Canadians as they age.

About the Grants

The Rapid Response Program (up to $300,000) provides seed funding for novel, high-risk, high-reward, translational research that will accelerate the development of therapeutics for neurodegenerative diseases of aging.

The Transformational Research Program (up to $1.5 million) supports transformative, high-risk, high-reward translational research projects on neurodegenerative diseases of aging.

The Follow-on Funding Program (up to $1.5 million) kick-starts the scaling of innovations, technologies and/or lifestyle approaches identified and validated in one of WBI’s proof-of-concept grant programs.

The Early Phase Clinical Trials Program (up to $1.5 million) provides funding support for clinical trials and clinical trial sub-studies with excellent preliminary data.

With this latest round of grants, 14 principal applicants and 89 team members—including international co-applicants and collaborators in Canada, the United States, Sweden and England—are being supported.

Brain Health

In November 2020 the Foundation launched Brain Health 2021: Lifestyle Approaches and Microbiome Contributions, seeking to increase the number of Canadians maintaining better brain health throughout their lives.

In this $7M pilot round, funding of up to $1.5M over three years will be available to Canadian researchers who propose projects that look for new ways to maintain or improve the brain health of Canadians. Projects should aim to evaluate the link between brain health and lifestyle approaches, the contributions of the microbiome to brain health, or both.

To read more about Brain Health 2021 program, go to our Grant Calls page.

Read the press release here: New $7M Brain Health Program Now Accepting Letters of Intent from Researchers

Weston Family Focused Ultrasound Initiative at Sunnybrook

In March 2020, our Foundation made a landmark $16.7-million philanthropic grant to establish the Weston Family Focused Ultrasound Initiative at Sunnybrook.

With this grant, the Foundation spearheaded a $33-million initiative to develop and bring novel focused ultrasound technology to Canadians. The Weston Family Focused Ultrasound Initiative will accelerate development of a powerful new focused ultrasound device to enable the personalized treatment of brain disorders as never before. This initiative will culminate in the launch of three world-first clinical trials and bring this breakthrough technology to more patients faster.

For more information, please refer to the links below:

Press Release

Sunnybrook Foundation: Weston Family Focused Ultrasound Initiative

Megan McCafferty

Megan McCafferty joined the Weston Family Foundation in September of 2019. She is a member of the Operations team and oversees the Foundation’s team of Grants Coordinators, while supporting the grants process for several programs and providing administrative support, including assistance with budgeting and financial reporting.

Prior to joining the Foundation, Megan worked as an Administrative Assistant at KPMG LLP. Previous to that, she worked as a Programs Administrative Officer with The Stephen Lewis Foundation.

Megan holds a Bachelor of Arts in Social Development Studies from the University of Waterloo and a Diploma in General Social Work Studies from Renison University College.

Kristin Purdy

Kristin Purdy joined the Weston Family Foundation in April of 2017. She is a member of the Operations team and is responsible for providing administrative support across all programs.

Teenu Sanjeevan, PhD

Teenu Sanjeevan joined the Weston Family Foundation as Research Program Specialist in 2020, before transitioning to her current role in 2021. She is responsible for managing the Foundation’s neuroscience programs.

Prior to joining the Foundation, Teenu was a Research Associate, and previously a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow, at the Autism Research Centre of Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital.

Teenu has a Bachelor of Science degree in Life Sciences and a Master of Science in Cognitive Science of Language from McMaster University, and a PhD in Speech-Language Pathology from the University of Toronto.

Rene Prashad, PhD

Rene Prashad joined the Weston Family Foundation as Research Programs Specialist at the Weston Brain Institute in 2014, before transitioning to his current role as Senior Program Manager in 2021. He is responsible for the Foundation’s neuroscience scaling initiatives, including the Weston Family Focused Ultrasound Initiative at Sunnybrook.

Prior to joining the Foundation, Rene worked in various industries such as life science, finance and retail.

Rene has an Honours Bachelor of Science degree in Neuroscience, a Master of Science in Neurophysiology, and a PhD in Neurophysiology from the University of Toronto.