Canadian foundation awards nearly $3M for brain imaging research

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A $2.8 million ($2.4 million, U.S.) grant from the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) will enable Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) researchers to combine the power of genetics and brain imaging to personalize treatment.

If the CFI grant is matched by the Ontario government, as anticipated, the center said that a total of up to $7 million ($6 million, U.S.) will be earmarked for the initiative, called neuroIMAGENE.

"Integrating genetics with our PET scanning technology to show neurochemical changes induced by drug therapies produces a powerful new tool to create targeted treatments," said Bruce G. Pollock, MD, vice president of research at CAMH.

The Toronto-based CAMH scientists are seeking to discover genetic factors and create tools with which physicians can identify the medication that will best fit an individual's brain chemistry and genetic risk factors, helping to avoid trial-and-error prescribing, treatment failure, relapse and serious side effects.

The first year after diagnosis is crucial in the treatment of an illness like schizophrenia, according to James Kennedy, MD, who, along with Sylvain Houle, MD, is spearheading the neuroIMAGENE initiative.

"If the first medication causes side effects, such as diabetes or tardive dyskinesia (a parkinson-like side effect), that is just one more barrier for the individual to overcome," he said.

The potential of neuroIMAGENE is to greatly increase the physician's ability to choose the best medication for a given individual and more precisely determine the starting dose, according to Kennedy.

The award builds on a $15 million ($12.9 million, U.S.) CFI grant awarded to CAMH in the Research Hospital Fund Competition of June 2008.