ALS Canada and Brain Canada invest more than half a million dollars in the future of ALS researchers with the 2023 Clinical Research Fellowship and Trainee Awards

On World Science Day, the latest ALS Canada-Brain Canada research awards, with support from Fondation Vincent Bourque, highlight the importance of funding early-career researchers and clinicians

TORONTO, November 10, 2023 – In recognition of World Science Day, together with Brain Canada, the ALS Society of Canada (ALS Canada) is pleased to announce the 2023 ALS Canada-Brain Canada Clinical Research Fellowship and Trainee Award recipients. These early career grants are designed to support the training and research of clinicians in clinical care and PhD students and postdoctoral fellows engaged in research related to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) across Canada.

With an estimated 3,000 Canadians living with ALS, investing in the next generation of researchers is critical to learning more about the disease, improving therapies, and eventually finding a cure.

“Our commitment to invest in clinicians and researchers early in their careers through the Clinical Research Fellowship and Trainee Award programs ensures that we have top medical and scientific talent working hard to find treatments for people living with ALS,” said Dr. David Taylor, Vice-President of Research and Strategic Partnerships, ALS Canada. “These are critical parts of our national Research Program that drive optimal care and discovery toward our vision of a future without ALS.”

“Investing in the future of ALS research means investing in the brilliant young minds who possess the insights needed to unravel the complexities of the disease,” says Dr. Viviane Poupon, President and CEO of Brain Canada. “Through the Clinical Fellowship Award and the Trainee Award program, Brain Canada proudly supports these up-and-coming scientists, as they are shaping a more hopeful future for those battling ALS.”

The Clinical Research Fellowship is designed to support a clinician’s training in clinical care and research skills related to ALS, which is crucial to building better clinical infrastructure across Canada. The Clinical Research Fellowship will provide $200,000 in funding.

Summary of 2023 Clinical Research Fellowship

  • Can we better understand the experience of younger middle-aged adults with ALS to help guide age-appropriate management of the disease? Dr. Andrea Parks, co-supervised by Dr. Agessandro Abrahao, Dr. Lesley Gotlib Conn, Dr. Joanna Sale, and Dr. Lorne Zinman, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, awarded $200,000

The Trainee Awards include two streams of funding: Doctoral students and postdoctoral fellows receive financial support to cover their salaries for up to three years, providing Canadian labs with the necessary funds to have top researchers working on the best projects to better understand the disease and drive toward new treatments for individuals living with ALS.

A total of $303,000 was awarded through the 2023 Trainee Awards.

Summary of 2023 Doctoral Awards

  • Will this novel decision aid improve early care planning and symptom management in those experiencing bulbar ALS symptoms? Anna Huynh, a PhD student in Dr. Yana Yunusova’s lab at Sunnybrook Research Institute, awarded $50,000 over two years
  • Do acute viral infections play a role in triggering onset or accelerating the progression of ALS? Art Marzok, a PhD student in Dr. Matthew Miller’s lab at McMaster University, awarded $25,000 for one year
  • Can this sophisticated method to measure brain activity help researchers better understand the role of hyperexcitability in ALS and its connection to symptoms? Liane Phung, a PhD student co-supervised by Dr. Agessandro Abrahao and Dr. Lorne Zinman at Sunnybrook Research Institute, awarded $75,000 over three years
  • Can a better understanding of how this particular protein influences overall protein production in cells offer insights into treating ALS? Amrita Verma, a PhD student in Dr. Neil Cashman’s lab at the University of British Columbia, awarded $75,000 over three years

Summary of 2023 Postdoctoral Fellowship

  • Can a combination of advanced brain imaging and artificial intelligence uncover a biomarker to better track disease progression? Dr. Isabelle Lajoie, a postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Mahsa Dadar’s lab at the Douglas Hospital Research Centre, McGill University, awarded $78,000 over two years

World Science Day reminds us of the impact science has in all our lives. ALS Canada is proud to support emerging scientists and clinicians whose ideas and discoveries will advance treatment and eventually lead to a world free of ALS.

Funding for Anna Huynh’s Doctoral Award was made possible through partnership with Fondation Vincent Bourque, who generously contributed $25,000 to ALS Canada, which was matched by Brain Canada through the Canada Brain Research Fund (CBRF).

The CBRF is an innovative arrangement between the Government of Canada (through Health Canada) and Brain Canada Foundation, which increases Canadians’ support for brain research and expands the philanthropic space for funding brain research to achieve maximum impact. To date, Health Canada has invested more than $145 million in brain research through the CBRF which has been matched by Brain Canada Foundation and its donors and partners.

About ALS Canada and the ALS Canada Research Program
The ALS Society of Canada (ALS Canada) is working to change what it means to live with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, an unrelenting and currently terminal disease.

Grounded in and informed by the Canadian ALS community, we respond to the urgent unmet need for life-changing treatments by investing in high-quality research that will fuel scientific discovery and by engaging industry, supporting increased clinical capacity and advocating for equitable, affordable, and timely access to proven therapies.

Responding to the tremendous need for current and credible ALS knowledge, awareness, and education, we empower Canadians affected by ALS to navigate the current realities of ALS, be informed consumers of ALS information, and advocate effectively for change.

Through the ALS Canada Research Program, we fund peer-reviewed research grants, foster collaboration and build capacity within Canada’s ALS research and clinical community, and invest in new areas of research positioned to have high impact. As the only national dedicated source of funding for ALS research across Canada, the ALS Canada Research Program aims to accelerate research impact by providing funding for the most promising ALS projects focused on translating scientific discoveries into treatments for ALS. We are grateful for the support of our donors and the contributions from participating provincial ALS Societies through the Walk to End ALS.

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. We join people, labs and platforms across the country, as well as institutions, organizations and sectors – to drive innovation and foster an interconnected brain research system. Our work enables Canada to excel and make even greater contributions to the global quest to understand the brain and brain disorders. Join us in funding brilliance daily,

About Fondation Vincent Bourque
Vincent was diagnosed with ALS in 2015He knew that ALS was not an incurable disease, but an underfunded one. With his wife, Isabelle Lessard, and many friends, he created a Fondation to help families living with ALS and to support research in order to eradicate ALS. He passed away in 2018, but his legacy to the ALS community is immeasurable. The Fondation Vincent Bourque has raised more than $1,200, 000 since 2018, given five research grants to star researchers dedicated to ALS, and distributed more than $250, 000 to help families. The Fondation Vincent Bourque is proud to be working with ALS Canada and Brain Canada toward a future without ALS.


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For more information
ALS Society of Canada 

Brain Canada
Brielle Goulart