"Ontario will be a world-leading centre for brain research, translation and innovation."
- Mobilizing Ontario's Excellence in Brain Research
The OIT recruited eminent Canadians Dr. Joseph B. Martin (Dean Emeritus, Harvard Medical School), Joseph L. Rotman (businessman and philanthropist) to lead the study.
It was timely because recent advances in brain research brought scientists to the very threshold of developing treatments - and potential cures - for diseases and disorders of the brain that have plagued society for centuries. What was needed was a sharing of minds and a spark of life.
Through research and recommendation by the experts detailed in a report (A Proposal to Mobilize Ontario's Excellence in Brain Research), the study concluded that Ontario could be a global leader in neuroscience. Something that would benefit Ontarians, Canadians and people worldwide.
In the summer of 2011, the Ontario Brain Institute received 33 workshop proposals and grouped these workshops into 7 disease-themed workshops that brought together clinicians, researchers, industry and not-for-profits from across Ontario. As a result of these workshops, 7 formal proposals for funding are received.
In April 2012, the Ontario Brain Institute announced the creation of Brain-CODE (Centre for Ontario Data Exploration). To create Brain-CODE, the OBI partnered with the Heart and Stroke Foundation Centre for Stroke Recovery, the Rotman Research Institute at Baycrest hospital, the Applied Health Research Centre at the Li Ka-Shing Knowledge Institute of St. Michael’s Hospital, the Ontario Cancer Biomarker Network, and the High Performance Computing Virtual Laboratory at Queen’s University.
The Brain-CODE database will store clinical data – including brain images, gene and protein data – from a broad range of brain conditions (for example: cerebral palsy, epilepsy, autism, ADHD, depression, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, traumatic brain injury). This data will help neuroscientists in Ontario and across the world to identify common risk factors for different brain diseases and disorders.
In May 2012, the Ontario Brain Institute announced a partnership with Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE) to launch the "OBI Entrepreneurs" program. This program supports post-graduate (M.Sc., PhD and post-doctoral fellows) and early-stage entrepreneurs as they move towards commercializing their discoveries to help prevent, diagnose, or treat brain conditions.
In June 2012, the Ontario Brain Institute announced a partnerhip with universities and private sector companies to help accelerate the commercialization of neurotechnologies in Ontario. The Government of Canada invested nearly $11 million into this program through their Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev) initiative. This program has also leveraged over $11 million in private sector investments.
In September of 2012 the OBI released the first issue of the Brainnovations Newsletter, a semi-annual publication highlighting stories from the OBI research and commercialization programs.
The OBI also held a ‘Brain Trials’ webinar focused on aspects of creating clinical trials for autism spectrum disorders.
In October of 2012 the OBI was designated as a ‘Privacy by Design’ Ambassador Organization for embedding the highest privacy standards into Brain-CODE regarding the collection, use, and disclosure of personal health information.
As a condition of the initial proof-of-principle funding from the Ontario government, the OBI underwent an external review of its activities and progress in the first 18 months of existence.
In November 2012 as part of the Experiential Education Initiative the OBI launched the Graduate Opportunities Internship program in conjunction with the University of Toronto Graduate Enterprise Internship Program and Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario. This program aims to provide internships for postgraduate neuroscientists which will broaden their skill sets and give them the experience they require to excel in the neurotechnology industry.
The OBI also hosted a public scientific panel discussion titled, ‘Integrating Brain Research: From Basic Science to Innovation’. The panelists for this event included Dr. Michael Gazzaniga, Dr. Sandra Black, Dr. Michael Strong, Dr. Robert Knight and Dr. Marcus Raichle. The first Brain-CODE advisory committee meeting was held to continue shaping the development of the Brain-CODE database.
The first Ontario Brain Innovation Council Information Session was held which brought together the OBI entrepreneurs, representatives from the FedDev projects and funding agencies.
In March 2013 the Ontario government announced a 5 year funding renewal for the OBI to continue funding existing research and expand its programs. The OBI released a knowledge synthesis report and accompanying webcast which found that physical activity is effective in delaying the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, and also improves the quality of life and independence of individuals already diagnosed with the disorder.
The second issue of the Brainnovations Newsletter was released highlighting how physical activity is being utilized in different OBI programs to promote brain health.
In partnership with the Ontario Centres of Excellence, the OBI launched the second round of entrepreneurial fellowships to help young entrepreneurs develop and commercialize neurotechnology products.
In June 2013 the first annual Ontario Brain Innovation Council plenary session, which brought together members of the Ontario neurotech industry, was held at McMaster University to discuss the building of a neuroscience cluster in Ontario.
The first data sets were uploaded into Brain-CODE to take brain research and collaboration in Ontario to a new level.