Ontario Government Invests $1 Million in Toronto’s Neuroscience Catalyst Consortium

Ministry of Research & Innovation joins founding partners University of Toronto and Janssen Inc., and new partners Evotec AG, MaRS Innovation and Ontario Centres of Excellence, to advance treatments for neurological disorders and develop early-stage biotech companies

From left to right: Dr. Rafi Hofstein, president and CEO of MaRS Innovation; Professor Ruth Ross, director of the Centre for Collaborative Drug Research at the University of Toronto; Guy Seabrook, vice president of Neuroscience Scientific Innovation at Johnson & Johnson Innovation, California; the Honourable Reza Moridi, Minister of Research &Innovation; and Chris Halyk, president of Janssen Inc.

From left to right: Dr. Rafi Hofstein, president and CEO of MaRS Innovation; Professor Ruth Ross, director of the Centre for Collaborative Drug Research at the University of Toronto; Guy Seabrook, vice president of Neuroscience Scientific Innovation at Johnson & Johnson Innovation, California; the Honourable Reza Moridi, Minister of Research &Innovation; and Chris Halyk, president of Janssen Inc.

TORONTO and PHILADELPHIA (June 16, 2015)— Toronto’s neuroscience efforts to find new drugs to treat and manage brain disorders — specifically, mood disorders and Alzheimer’s disease — took another step forward as the Government of Ontario’s Ministry of Research and Innovation announced a $1 million contribution to the Neuroscience Catalyst consortium, bringing the total raised for the open innovation fund to $3.7 million. Reza Moridi, Minister of Research and Innovation and Minister of Training Colleges and Universities, announced the contribution at the 2015 BIO International conference in Philadelphia during the opening of the Ontario pavilion.

This release was covered by Pharma TV and in TechVibes, BioSpace and Biotechnology Focus, and was referenced on the Canadian Science Policy Centre‘s and the Alzheimer Society of Toronto’s respective websites.

“We are pleased to support this collaborative innovation model which will accelerate the development of better treatment options for people with neurological disorders,” said Minister Moridi. “Partnerships between universities, academic hospitals, research institutes, industries and government are key to positioning Ontario as a global leader in Life Sciences.”

Founded by the University of Toronto (U of T) in partnership with Janssen Inc. and facilitated by Johnson & Johnson Innovation, the Neuroscience Catalyst consortium is using the Toronto research community’s well-established strengths in neuroscience to identify promising early-stage molecules and technologies through an open innovation model. The consortium aims to combine expertise to enable and accelerate the translation of basic sciences through to start-up companies and investor partnerships.

“We all want the next generation of solutions that are so desperately needed by patients and their families,” said Professor Ruth Ross, director of the Centre for Collaborative Drug Research at U of T. “In Canada, mood disorders such as depressive disorder and bipolar disorder affect about 10 per cent of the population. Alzheimer’s disease affects more than 745,000 Canadians. The need is urgent and this unique open collaborative partnership will allow us to rapidly develop new treatments.”

Other partners joining the project include MaRS Innovation, which introduced the partners to the Ministry of Research & Innovation and led the early conversation; Evotec, a global, high-quality provider in the drug discovery field; and Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE), which is administering the funding.

Since its September 2014 launch, the Neuroscience Catalyst program has already selected four early-stage medical and scientific projects for development, all focused on mood disorders and Alzheimer’s disease. They include:

  • Developing markers for inflammation in major depressive disorder, led by Dr. Jeffrey Meyer at Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH).
  • Novel targets for developing rapid-acting antidepressants, led by Dr. José Nobrega and Dr. Francis Bambico, also at CAMH’s Campbell Research Institute.
  • Creating an imaging probe to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease, led by Dr. Don Weaver at the University Health Network (UHN).
  • Developing novel tool molecules to study depression, led by Dr. Yufeng Tong at U of T’s Structural Genomics Consortium in partnership with Dr. Albert Wong, a scientist in the CAMH’s Campbell Research Institute.

“We are so pleased that the Ontario Government’s Ministry of Research & Innovation, Evotec, MaRS Innovation and OCE have joined the Neuroscience Catalyst consortium, which has the opportunity to advance breakthrough treatments,” said Chris Halyk, President, Janssen Inc. “This initiative is fundamental to helping Janssen Inc. advance two important and inter-related areas of focus for our company: upholding Canadian R&D investment and innovation, and putting that innovation to work through continued medical research in areas of unmet patient need, which further support healthcare system sustainability.”

“There’s good reason to feel bullish about Toronto’s strengths in neurology and neuroscience research,” said Dr. Raphael Hofstein, president and CEO of MaRS Innovation. “This news comes on the heels of the Government of Canada’s $42 million and the Government of Ontario’s $23.5 million investments in neuroscience at Baycrest Health Centre and U of T’s recent neuroscience successes with IBM’s Watson program. Beyond the Virtual Brain and other projects within MI’s portfolio, we see considerable depth at U of T, with CAMH, UHN’s Toronto Western Hospital, the Hospital for Sick Children, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, and many other partners within our ecosystem. I’m optimistic about this unusual model’s long-term prospects to find and support the most promising technologies.”

“OCE has a proud tradition of supporting medical science innovations including a number of neuroscience projects through our many partnerships and our suite of programs,” said Dr. Tom Corr, president and CEO. “This exciting initiative is a terrific example of what can happen when government, industry and academia come together to help improve the quality of life for Ontarians.”

Applications are currently open to accept additional projects; more information is posted on the Neuroscience Catalyst Website.

About Neuroscience Catalyst

The Neuroscience Catalyst is an innovative collaboration between the University of Toronto through the Centre for Collaborative Drug Research and Johnson & Johnson Innovation in partnership with Janssen Inc., one of the world’s most innovative pharmaceutical companies. The Neuroscience Catalyst funds pre-competitive, early-stage research that can progress to clinical treatments for mood disorders and Alzheimer’s disease; chronic diseases that impact hundreds of millions of people worldwide. The Neuroscience Catalyst was designed with the aim of leveraging the collective skills and resources of academia and industry to accelerate the pace of developing and bringing new neuroscience drugs to market and providing treatments for major neuropsychiatric disorders.