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Message from the Chair and Vice-Chair

The Ontario Brain Institute (OBI) is a government-funded, not-for-profit organization that accelerates discovery and innovation, benefiting both patients and the economy. It’s a focused, yet lofty goal – which is exactly why it cannot be achieved by one person or organization alone. And for that reason, OBI plays a crucial role in uniting the brain health community under one banner through collaboration.

Our network of partners and collaborators represent 192 researchers, 57 entrepreneurs, 155 interns, 77 portfolio companies and 29 community organizations – mere numbers for some – but the numbers of people they in turn impact, is exponential. This network is charged with the grand challenge of improving the lives of the 1 in 3 people in Ontario living with brain disorders.

OBI’s end goal of improving brain health, is realized by moving science and innovation from the lab, and into the community. Lab to life, if you will. To truly empower and impact a person’s life, we must offer them the knowledge, tools, and resources to better care for themselves. This approach seems to be working. Building on the government’s investment, OBI has leveraged an additional $327M into its three core pillars of research, commercialization and care, leading to remarkable results.

A new biomarker for depression was found, bringing us closer to delivering precision medicine – quite a feat for CAN-BIND, OBI’s depression research program. This could not have transpired without the support of our partners at Lundbeck or our research collaborators. Major depression affects close to 2,000,000 Canadians annually, and is responsible for more than 3,500 deaths in Canada alone – which makes this all the more noteworthy.

As the global research community debates the need to create a platform to share data, they may need only look to OBI. Brain-CODE, OBI's neuroinformatics platform, enables safe and secure data sharing, giving researchers, clinicians, and industry the confidence to work together and share data with the world. OBI is leading by example and demonstrating Brain-CODE as a secure platform and solution to the barriers in the way of open science. To date, Brain-CODE has received 128 requests from across the globe for its existing data and is looking to release six new clinical data sets in early 2021 – a key indicator of trust in its platform and value of the data it holds.

On top of that, we will continue to nurture commercial innovation, with 77 portfolio companies on our roster. These companies managed to secure $121M in follow-on funding – a 16:1 return on investment – a sign of a healthy and emerging neurotech cluster. This is an asset to Ontario’s economy, which is also developing new tools to improve and maintain brain health. One standout example is Charles M. Cuerrier, CEO of Spiderwort and an OBI ONtrepreneur, who raised $3.4 million in seed capital this year. Spiderwort’s spinal cord scaffold implant was designated as a breakthrough device by the FDA and is bound to offer new avenues in 3D in vitro research and regenerative medicine.

Working with community organizations “on the ground” allows us to bring research closer to the real-life impacts of brain disorders. These relationships help OBI better understand what is working, and what resources Ontarians wish they could access. An example is OBI’s GEEK Program that supports community-led programs to evaluate their work so they can spread and scale their impact. Currently, in its third round, OBI-GEEK has leveraged $1.7M through follow-on funding – nearly a 3:1 return on investments allowing these frontline community groups to expand their programs and services to help more people.

These examples are indicative of OBI’s success, but more importantly, they tell a story of the great work happening here in Ontario. The current pandemic may have dramatically altered our lives, with offices closed and remote workplaces established – but our commitment to advancing brain health did not falter.

Our strategic contributions to support groundbreaking research, help foster and build a neurotech cluster and in promoting community care not only bring us closer to our end goal – they have allowed us to make significant contributions towards the growth of the province’s economy, and in maximizing our efforts to improve brain health in Ontario and beyond.

“OBI’s end goal of improving brain health, is realized by moving science and innovation from the lab, and into the community. Lab to life, if you will. To truly empower and impact a person’s life, we must offer them the knowledge, tools, and resources to better care for themselves. This approach seems to be working. Building on the government’s investment, OBI has leveraged an additional $327M into its three core pillars of research, commercialization and care, leading to remarkable results.”

Hugh MacKinnon, Board Chair Marcia Moffat, Vice-Chair