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Harquail family and Sunnybrook Foundation make joint $10 million investment in neuromodulation research

Feb 21, 2018

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TORONTO, ON — Sunnybrook’s internationally recognized leaders in neuromodulation — the ability to intervene in brain circuitry to stop, start, and interrupt the systems at the root of the most common and challenging brain disorders — have received an important boost from local philanthropists.

The Harquail family has made a landmark $5-million investment to establish the Harquail Centre for Neuromodulation at Sunnybrook, the world’s first centre to offer a complete range of neuromodulation treatments under one roof. Sunnybrook Foundation will direct an additional $5 million in donor funds, bringing the total investment to $10 million. The joint investment will support a critical mass of world experts in neuromodulation and help build a physical hub for innovative care and research.

“Neuromodulation uses advanced, image-guided technologies such as focused ultrasound to interact directly with malfunctioning brain circuits” says Dr. Nir Lipsman, inaugural director of the Harquail Centre for Neuromodulation and international expert in image-guided brain therapies. “The Harquail Centre for Neuromodulation will be the first in the world to offer patients the full spectrum of state-of-the art neuromodulation treatments. There is no other centre in the world that can do that in one place.”

With this investment, Dr. Lipsman has already recruited two of the world’s foremost experts in neuromodulation to the Sunnybrook team: Dr. Clement Hamani and Dr. Peter Giacobbe. Their vision and passion for the future of image-guided treatments for brain disorders will help Sunnybrook produce research that will change the way brain disorders are treated globally.

To be housed in the soon-to-be constructed 60,000-square-foot Garry Hurvitz Brain Sciences Centre, the 4,000-square-foot Harquail Centre for Neuromodulation will provide leading-edge care and serve as a recruitment epicentre for first-in-the-world clinical trials of focused ultrasound and other highly sophisticated neuromodulation technologies.

About neuromodulation at Sunnybrook

Sunnybrook is at the global forefront of advances in neuromodulation, and focused ultrasound in particular. In 2016, Sunnybrook was designated a centre of excellence by the Focused Ultrasound Foundation, the leading organization for research and advocacy in the field. The honour is the first ever awarded to a Canadian hospital and one of only six in the world.

In 2012, Sunnybrook became the first Canadian centre to use high-intensity focused ultrasound to treat essential tremor, the most common movement disorder. In 2015, Sunnybrook scientists became the first in the world to open the blood-brain barrier and deliver chemotherapy to a targeted area of the brain of a patient with brain cancer. In 2017, Sunnybrook’s experts made history again by using focused ultrasound to successfully and safely breach the blood-brain barrier in patients with Alzheimer’s disease in another world-first. Sunnybrook scientists have now also launched North America’s first clinical trial of focused ultrasound in obsessive-compulsive disorder and major depression.

“Sunnybrook is a world leader in neuromodulation research, especially focused ultrasound,” says David Harquail. “Our family’s hope is that these clinical trials can help advance the availability of new and more effective treatments for brain disorders such as brain cancer and Alzheimer’s. Sunnybrook is uniquely placed to advance this research. We are excited to be a part of the rapid advances being made in this global effort.”

The ability to directly intervene in brain circuits, using a diverse range of neuromodulation technologies such as focused ultrasound, has been among the most important advances in neuroscience in the last two decades. “The last 20 years have seen rapid advances in imaging and technology, which together enable us to safely and effectively interact with brain circuitry,” says Dr. Lipsman. “To gain momentum, now is the time to consolidate our efforts around a dedicated centre that would advance these treatments. This investment will help us do that.”

About the Harquail Family

The Harquail family through its Midas Touch Foundation supports education, hospitals, charities and the arts. Last year, the foundation sponsored the Harquail School of Earth Sciences at Laurentian University in Sudbury. The foundation is managed by David Harquail and Birgitta Sigfridsson-Harquail along with their adult children, Sofia, James and Peter. David Harquail is CEO of Franco-Nevada Corporation.

About Sunnybrook

Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre is one of Canada’s premier academic health sciences centres, with 1.2 million patient visits annually and $100 million of research funding each year. Sunnybrook’s experts in the Hurvitz Brain Sciences Program are leaders in new and novel minimally-invasive brain treatments (including focused ultrasound) for Alzheimer’s disease, stroke prevention and care, and mental illness, among many other fields.

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Media contact:
Sybil Millar
Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre
416.480.6100 ext. 87710
sybil.millar@sunnybrook.ca