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February 8, 2023
Pictured left to right: Dani Reiss, Dr. Daniel Durocher, Dr. Graham Collingridge
Individually, Sinai Health scientists Dr. Graham Collingridge and Dr. Daniel Durocher have helped revolutionize our understanding of age-related diseases.
Together, with support from the newly announced Dani Reiss Innovation Fund for Healthy Ageing Research, Drs. Collingridge and Durocher are positioned to conduct breakthrough research into the fastest-growing population group in the country - our oldest Canadians.
The establishment of the fund has been made possible by a generous $10-million gift from long-time Sinai Health supporter Dani Reiss. In powering the work of Drs. Collingridge and Durocher, the fund will enable innovative studies and discovery research aimed at improving our understanding of the ageing process and ageing-related diseases. What’s more, it will facilitate training of the next generation of ageing-focused researchers, provide cutting-edge equipment for research and generate new scientific knowledge related to aging.
Improving our understanding of cognitive decline in ageing and Alzheimer’s disease
As a senior investigator at the Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute (LTRI), Dr. Collingridge is renowned for his research into mechanisms that drive memory formation and loss. The Reiss Innovation Fund will allow him to expand his work into how the ageing process increases the risk for Alzheimer’s disease.
The long-term goal, says Collingridge, is to answer the question of how to slow the impact of ageing on the brain to preserve cognitive abilities and prevent age-related brain disorders, particularly Alzheimer’s disease.
Dr. Collingridge says the Reiss Innovation Fund will enable his team to better understand the molecular causes of dementia. He and his team aim to lay the groundwork for developing better, more targeted therapies for Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative conditions. “It’s extremely valuable to have this support because it enables us to take risks that we couldn’t otherwise take,” he says.
The Dani Reiss Innovation Fund will allow Dr. Collingridge to study models of late-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Says Dr. Collingridge: “To develop them and study these models over two years is time-consuming. We need time to characterize the models thoroughly and then apply that knowledge to new therapeutic strategies. This is another reason why long-term funding, like the Dani Reiss Fund, is really very valuable.”
Additionally, the Dani Reiss Innovation Fund will support the recruitment of two fellows (Dani Reiss Fellows) who have expertise in neurodegeneration and ageing. “Ultimately, to drive this project efficiently, we need post-doctoral research fellows,” says Dr. Collingridge. “The Dani Reiss Innovation Fund will allow us to recruit top-level talent.”
Improving our understanding of cellular senescence
According to Dr. Durocher, associate director of the LTRI, the Dani Reiss Innovation Fund will allow his team the flexibility to pursue areas of research they’ve not been able to fund any other way. “Ageing, by definition, takes a long time. And because of the magnitude of the work ahead of us, it would be difficult to move the dial or have an impact on our ageing population if we don't have this type of long-term funding,” he says.
Dr. Durocher’s area of expertise is in investigating how cells detect and repair damage to their DNA, which has implications for neurodegenerative diseases, cancer, and the ageing process. Ageing is characterized by senescence, a process by which cells stop dividing due to the accumulation of DNA damage, leading to the gradual deterioration of cellular and organ function.
The Reiss Innovation Fund will enable Dr. Durocher team to conduct research into senescence and translate these new insights into the pursuit of novel therapeutics. Not only will Dr. Durocher and his colleagues explore how some cells are able to evade senescence, but they will also seek to understand the role of DNA damage and its repair in ageing, eventually supporting efforts to develop new therapies.
What’s more, the fund will enable the Durocher Lab to purchase state-of-the-art equipment, staffed by highly competitive researchers, undertaking what Dr. Durocher calls “high-risk, high-reward” experiments.
As Chairman & CEO of Canada Goose, Dani has a long history enabling people, of all ages, to thrive in the world outside. Dani, who serves on the Sinai Health Foundation Board of Directors, believes funding research into healthy ageing has the power to positively impact all Canadians. Says Reiss: “An investment in healthy ageing is an investment in the future.”
Dr. Graham Collingridge
Dr. Collingridge explores the role of genes in cognitive function and dysfunction. In 2016, he was awarded the Brain Prize - widely regarded as the “Nobel Prize for neuroscientists” - for his work into brain plasticity, contributing to a medication that temporarily slows the progression of Alzheimer’s Disease.
Dr. Daniel Durocher
Dr. Durocher has been recognized for his research on how cells maintain the integrity of their genomes. He has been behind major discoveries about how cells repair broken strands of DNA that could have exciting implications for cancer, neurodegenerative diseases, and ageing.
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