The Neuro-CERVO Alliance for Drug Discovery (NCADD), a new partnership between The Neuro (Montreal Neurological Institute-Hospital) at McGill University, and the CERVO Brain Research Center of the CIUSSS de la Capitale-Nationale, affiliated with l’Université Laval, was awarded $7M CAD in funding over three years from the Ministry of Economy and Innovation.

This funding will be matched by private and philanthropic funds to bring the total amount of funding of the NCADD partnership to $15.32M.

NCADD will address a major challenge by finding biomarkers to stratify patients and facilitate development of personalized therapies. The project will primarily focus on patients affected by Parkinson’s disease, schizophrenia, or bipolar disorder as well as healthy individuals recruited as controls.

The multi-disciplinary project relies on the expertise and technology within established platforms and facilities at The Neuro and the CERVO Brain Research Centre and samples collected through the Fonds de recherche du Québec Santé (FRQS), which is the Quebec Parkinson Network, and other registries, which will be used to develop deeply characterized cellular models.

AI(Artificial Intelligence) concept. 3D rendering brain.
Artificial Intelligence concept in a 3D rendering of the brain. [Metamorworks/Getty Images]
The goal is to develop artificial intelligence-based approaches to classify patients into distinct subgroups using data from this deep cellular characterization, coupled with clinical data. Such tools would allow scientists to identify disease biomarkers, which are important in developing early detection methods and as therapeutic targets, and importantly for grouping patients into appropriate clinical trials. Ultimately, the goal is to tailor therapies for each subgroup of patients.

Through a forward-looking public-private partnership, the aim is to advance drug discovery for brain diseases through Open Science, i.e., the sharing of information to break down barriers and fostering collaboration. To achieve this goal, NCADD will work in collaboration with multiple Québec-based companies, including Bliq Photonics, nPlex, Affinite Instruments, YCharos, eNuvio, and Imagia.

Other partners with expertise also will be involved, such as Cyclica, the National Research Council of Canada, the National Optics Institute, and international pharmaceutical companies. In addition, NCADD will support the development of new spin-offs based on optimized innovative tools or discovered biomarkers.

“The critical support of the Fonds d’accélération des collaborations en santé (FACS) is creating a Quebec-based alliance that brings together two massively rich poles of expertise in a collaborative partnership, maximizing the impact of their research on brain diseases,” says Edward Fon, MD, scientific director at The Neuro and NCADD’s co-principal investigator. “All data and samples will be made openly accessible so that other institutes can use it to further their work. This will allow us and others to find new biomarkers and develop personalized medicine to improve patient lives.”

“The beauty of the project is that, beyond enabling breakthrough biomedical discoveries, it will drive technology development in partnership with companies in the photonics and artificial intelligence sectors and stimulate the emergence of new start-up companies at the interface of the physical, computational, and life sciences. This convergence of sectors is key to drive innovation,” adds Yves De Koninck, PhD, scientific director of the CERVO Brain Research Center.

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