Imagine if every drug for the treatment of diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s that has been tested and failed in the past 20 years could be given a second chance. What if one discovery could improve the effectiveness of some or even all of those therapies? What could it mean for the more than 16-million Canadians over this generation who will be impacted by these types of diseases, which until now have been untreatable and incurable?

For most of us, the prospect is almost unimaginable. But, the Weston Brain Institute is betting on it. Literally.

The focused ultrasound project is one of these big bets: a high risk, high reward research project with the potential to make a transformational difference in treating neurodegenerative diseases of aging. Canadian researchers Dr. Isabelle Aubert, Dr. Sandra Black, and Dr. Kullervo Hynynen at Sunnybrook Research Institute and University of Toronto have unlocked a non-invasive way to deliver medication deep into the brain. The technique permeates the blood-brain barrier, a layer of tightly packed cells that acts like plastic wrap, surrounding each of the brain’s blood vessels. This way, treatments that were previously blocked can now reach the areas of the brain they are intended to treat. Simply put, this changes everything.

Based on its more than money philosophy, the Institute supports researchers with all of the resources required to get a breakthrough off the ground, from financing, counsel, and important networks to clinical trial assistance and business advice.

According to Dr. Aubert, “It is unique in Canada to get such targeted funding, plus all of the additional support it takes to truly advance the science.”

When The W. Garfield Weston Foundation established Canada’s largest privately funded national initiative in brain research, it committed not only $50-million but also a full suite of resources for the best and brightest in Canada. At the time, Andres Lozano, Chair of the Institute’s Scientific Advisory Board and the Neurosurgery Department at U of T expressed a sense of urgency and a commitment to find and support revolutionary research.

Executive Director Alexandra Stewart says, “We go all-in on projects that are addressing areas of greatest impact.” She adds, “To get from research to treatment, we know it takes funding, mentoring and a long list of resources. Canada has a world-class neuroscience research community, but needs more resources to quickly and effectively translate discoveries into treatments. It’s a gap that can put Canadian researchers at a disadvantage.”

With its focused, business-based approach to support, it’s a gap the Weston Brain Institute is determined to close. You can bet on that.