Dr. Mark Cembrowski is among twenty neuroscientists in Canada awarded $100,000 each in research funding, as part of Brain Canada’s Future Leaders in Canadian Brain Research Program.

Anchored by a $5M gift from the Azrieli Foundation, this novel funding model is intended to enable paradigm-changing brain research with the aim of improving the lives of all Canadians.

“I was excited, and frankly, quite surprised,” says Dr. Cembrowski, on being notified of the award.  “Canada has so many fantastic young neuroscientists, and so it is an honour to be identified as one such scientist that is believed to be important for the future of the field.”

“The program supports early-career investigators at a critical point in their professional development, so they can pursue new lines of research and gather data that will allow them to obtain further funding on the path to a sustainable independent research position,” says Brain Canada President and CEO Dr. Viviane Poupon. “This program really is helping to build the next generation of brain science leaders in Canada.”

Dr. Cembrowski’s award acknowledges his contributions to epilepsy research. “Our goal is to identify the cellular and molecular changes that occur in epilepsy,” he says. “Such knowledge will help us to understand, and ultimately treat, this challenging disorder.

“To demonstrate leadership in Canadian neuroscience, my lab is going to pursue high-risk, high-reward research,” adds Cembrowski. “Between the Life Sciences Institute, the Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health, the Dynamic Brain Circuits Cluster, and other local groups, we are quite privileged to part of a state-of-the-art neuroscience community here at UBC. In conjunction with funding made possible by Brain Canada through the Canada Brain Research Fund, Health Canada, and the Azrieli Foundation, we can pursue these critical and risky lines of research.”

The 2019 competition grant awards will be distributed over a period of two years, powering a range of fields within neuroscience. Brain Canada will launch open funding competitions under this program every year for the next five years, ultimately supporting 100 early-career researchers and transforming the Canadian brain research landscape.

This year’s cohort of neuroscientists are involved in projects ranging from basic science to clinical research, which examine the brain in health and in illness. Through their work, they are exploring brain injury, brain cancer and mental illness, as well as neurodegenerative disorders. They are studying how our brains develop, as well as the role neurotechnology can play in better understanding diseases and disorders of the brain.

“This grant competition is a transformative initiative at a time when there is a significant funding gap for our brightest early-career investigators,” notes Dr. Naomi Azrieli, Chair of the Brain Canada Board of Directors and Chair and CEO of the Azrieli Foundation. “They are at a critical point in their careers: poised to make major contributions to Canadian brain research but in need of seed funding to gain experience.”

Funding for the Future Leaders in Canadian Brain Research program has been provided by Health Canada, through the Canada Brain Research Fund. Since 2011, Brain Canada has had a major partnership with the Government of Canada, via Health Canada, which has contributed $120 million to match funds from Brain Canada’s private and non-federal partners, and dedicated a further $40M over two years starting in 2020-21.

About Brain Canada:
Brain Canada is a national non-profit organization that enables and supports excellent, innovative, paradigm-changing brain research in Canada. It plays a unique and invaluable role as the national convener of the brain research community. Brain Canada understands that better insight into how the brain works contributes to the prevention, diagnosis, treatment and cure of disorders of the brain, thereby improving the health outcomes and quality of life of all Canadians.

2019 Azrieli Future Leaders in Canadian Brain Research Grant Recipients:
Brain Canada rewards research excellence and innovation and is able to take risks to fund high-potential ideas. Funding recipients are selected through a rigorous two-stage national and international peer review process. For this competition, a total of 150 candidates submitted letters of intent which underwent peer review. Fifty-three researchers were subsequently invited to submit full, comprehensive grant applications, with the 20 grant recipients chosen after a second round of peer review.

The 2019 Azrieli Future Leaders in Canadian Brain Research grant recipients are conducting research at institutions across Canada.

This article was originally published by the Life Sciences Institute.