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Canadian Researchers Awarded C$7.1M to Advance Alzheimer's Research

NEW YORK(GenomeWeb) – The organizers of a Canadian program to further research into forms of dementia, including Alzheimer's disease, today announced awards totaling C$7.1 million (US$6.3 million) for five projects.

The winners of the British Columbia Alzheimer's Research Award Program funding are from the University of British Columbia and Simon Fraser University, and their work will cover investigations into the biology of Alzheimer's, potential therapeutic targets and strategies to combat the disease, and new diagnostic approaches to the ailment.

GenomeBritish Columbia, BrainCanada, the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research, and the Pacific Alzheimer Research Foundation created the award program in December 2013 in order to accelerate research into Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia.

Among the winners announced today are Mirza Faisal Beg from SFU, who will work with colleagues to develop a retina imaging device using laser light that may be used as an inexpensive, non-invasive retina exam to screen individuals for the earliest signs of amyloid in the retina indicative of Alzheimers. They were awarded C$1.5 million.

Neil Cashman and his team at UBC also received C$1.5 million to further research into the use of toxic Abeta oligomers for diagnostic and therapeutic applications, while a team led by James Johnson at UBC will use their C$1.1 million award to test a hypothesis that insulin produced in the brain is critical to the survival and function of brain cells in terms of genetic changes and a diet that may increase the risk for Alzheimer's.

Another team at UBC led by Christian Naus seeks to identify new drugs that target neurons and enhance the ability of astrocytes to protect neurons that are vulnerable to degeneration in Alzheimer's. They were awarded C$1.5 million. Lastly, David Vocadlo and co-researchers at SFU will use a C$1.5 million award to "address the key challenges that would clear the way for a promising new therapeutic target to enable the rapid advance of optimized molecules into formal toxicology studies and downstream trials," according to a statement.

"With our aging population and the burden of dementia on the healthcare system this research is of vital importance with genomics playing a key role in discovery and management of the disease," Genome BC President and CEO Alan Winter said in a statement.