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Today, the Government of Canada announced the next phase of funding for the Canadian Consortium on Neurodegeneration in Aging (CCNA). From 2019 to 2024, CCNA will receive $46 million from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and 11 other partner organizations, including the Alzheimer Society of Canada (ASC), the Centre for Aging + Brain Health Innovation (CABHI), Brain Canada, and the Fonds de recherche du Québec – Santé (FRQS).

Established in 2014—based on a partnership between the CIHR, the ASC, and 12 other public and private funding bodies—CCNA is led by Dr. Howard Chertkow, Professor of Neurology at the University of Toronto. CCNA is the largest initiative in dementia research ever undertaken in Canada; for Phase I, CCNA-affiliated members have managed to successfully leverage 1.5 times their initial allotted funds from other organizations, totaling $49 million. In its second phase of funding, CCNA will bring together over 310 researchers from 39 universities in eight provinces across Canada, and these researchers will continue to leverage funding and foster collaborations with other international studies on dementia.

CCNA’s mission is to foster research collaborations across disciplines and universities to understand, manage, and treat age-related cognitive decline and dementia which impact over 400,000 Canadians today, and will impact as many as 1.5 million Canadians by 2031. To accelerate and synergize research nationwide, CCNA researchers work under three research themes (Prevention, Treatment, and Quality of Life) within nineteen research teams, exploring a range of topics that include new projects focused on sleep and dementia. In Phase II, the researchers will also benefit from programs that will build their capacity in engaging people living with dementia in research; exploring Indigenous research topics and healthcare issues; and conducting research on special topics related to women, gender, sex, and dementia.

Canada is poised to become a leader in dementia prevention research through a new CCNA platform, the Canadian Aging and Neurodegeneration Prevention Therapy Study Using Multidimensional Interventions for Brain Support – Unified Platform (CAN-THUMBS UP). The infrastructure and master protocol being created for this large-scale dementia prevention study will enable researchers to work on goals that align with international prevention initiatives as they will test combination therapies and lifestyle changes, such as physical activity, cognitive training, and diet, on individuals who are at higher risk of developing dementia as they age.

CCNA has also implemented a unique observational cohort study. The Comprehensive Assessment of Neurodegeneration and Dementia (COMPASS-ND) is the only cohort study in the world that is collecting a wealth of data on seniors with different types and severities of dementia. To date, 800 people have been included in this study across Canada, with Québec playing a leading role—27% of the total participants originate from nine Québec-based recruitment sites. CCNA aims to leverage the eventual release of COMPASS-ND data to collaborate with other provincial, national, and international studies, including the Consortium for the Early Identification of Alzheimer’s Disease – Québec (CIMA-Q), the Ontario Neurodegenerative Disease Research Initiative (ONDRI), the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging (CLSA), the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI), Dementia’s Platform UK, the Genetic Frontotemporal dementia Initiative (GENFI), and World Wide FINGERS.

A multidisciplinary group of 105 Québec-based researchers are part of CCNA. Accounting for 25% of the membership, Québec researchers are active in 17 of the 19 CCNA teams. In its first phase (2014-2019), CCNA injected $6 million into dementia research in Québec alone, and, due to their affiliation with the CCNA, Québec-based researchers successfully tripled their funds and leveraged an extra $18 million, resulting in a $24 million investment in dementia-related research in Québec. CCNA is also dedicated to encouraging and supporting future generations of scientists to become involved in dementia-related studies, supporting 59 trainees across the province.

Many Québec-based researchers have contributed to the remarkable CCNA research findings. Since 2014, they have been involved in 40 published scientific papers.
Having obtained a $2.1 million investment from CCNA, the Lady Davis Institute (LDI) includes nine CCNA-affiliated researchers, three of whom are in leadership roles, highlighting the depth of expertise the LDI brings to CCNA: Drs. Howard Bergman and Isabelle Vedel co-lead the team investigating how best to integrate dementia patient care into the health care system; and Dr. Natalie Phillips is on the Research Executive Committee and co-leads the team investigating the links between sensory loss and cognitive decline. Other LDI researchers contributing to CCNA’s success include: Drs. Olivier Beauchet, Elizabeth MacNamara, Pierre Pluye, Uri Saragovi, Hyman Schipper, and Susan Vaitekunas.

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