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Rewiring the brain: More than $25 million to advance Sunnybrook’s Harquail Centre for Neuromodulation

June 22, 2023

TORONTO, ON – Sunnybrook Foundation and the University of Toronto are pleased to announce a landmark gift from David Harquail, Birgitta Sigfridsson-Harquail and family that will secure and expand the Harquail Centre for Neuromodulation at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre – a global centre for leading-edge, less- to non-invasive neuromodulation therapies for some of the most difficult-to-treat brain disorders.

The family’s new gift of $12 million – which brings the combined commitment from the Harquails and Sunnybrook Foundation to more than $25 million – will accelerate the Harquail Centre’s world leading work in neuromodulation research, education and patient care. It builds on their earlier commitment to Sunnybrook in 2018, which launched the Harquail Centre for Neuromodulation as one of the world’s most comprehensive centres offering a complete range of neuromodulation treatments under one roof, including MRI-guided focused ultrasound and deep brain stimulation.

“Ambitious, exciting and brave work is underway at the Harquail Centre for Neuromodulation, where clinical care is inextricably linked to research, innovation, education and advocacy,” said David Harquail, an alumnus of U of T’s Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering. “We hope our gift will inspire others to join in our shared vision to transform brain health.” The Harquail family’s new commitment to both Sunnybrook and U of T’s Temerty Faculty of Medicine will double the Harquail Centre’s annual funding over the next five years: establishing new professorships, supporting learners and advancing vital research projects. The gift will also endow a new Harquail Chair in Neuromodulation to be held by the Harquail Centre’s director

“The Harquail family’s generous foundational support established the Harquail Centre as a global leader in brain therapy,” said Dr. Nir Lipsman, director of the Harquail Centre for Neuromodulation and associate professor of surgery at U of T, who will be the inaugural Harquail Chair in Neuromodulation. “This new gift ensures that the Harquail Centre investigators continue pushing the envelope of what neuromodulation can achieve, enhancing our understanding and treatment of the most challenging brain conditions, with the potential to impact patients across Ontario, Canada and the world.”

“This gift demonstrates the tremendous power of partnership and collaboration,” said Dr. Trevor Young, dean of the Temerty Faculty of Medicine and vice-provost, relations with healthcare institutions at U of T. “Temerty Medicine is delighted to partner with Sunnybrook on this next phase of the Harquail Centre and is very grateful to the Harquail family for their visionary support.”

In addition to the Harquail family’s investment, Sunnybrook Foundation and U of T have committed $3 million and $1 million respectively in matching funds to the Harquail Centre for Neuromodulation. They will seek to raise an additional $8 million in future philanthropic support.

“When donors join together with hospitals and universities, we can accelerate change on a massive scale—ultimately impacting patients here in Toronto, but also across Ontario, Canada and around the world,” said Kelly Cole, president & CEO, Sunnybrook Foundation.

The Harquail Centre’s work also will be enhanced in the coming years by its new home within Sunnybrook’s Garry Hurvitz Brain Sciences Centre: a state-of-the-art new facility that will bring together multidisciplinary teams of experts to improve care and innovation.

“The Harquail family’s investment, coupled with the new collaborative opportunities that will be made possible through the Garry Hurvitz Brain Sciences Centre, is unleashing a revolutionary new era in brain health in our city—and for the world,” said Dr. Andy Smith, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre’s president and CEO, as well as a professor of surgery at U of T.

“With this gift from the Harquail family, we will see better outcomes with fewer complications related to some of the most pernicious brain disorders,” said Meric Gertler, president of the University of Toronto. “Today’s announcement is a boon for patients in Canada and globally and reflects our shared leadership in one of today’s most promising areas of medical science.”

With the power to influence brain circuitry, neuromodulation is a highly promising approach for a wide range of psychiatric and brain disorders. Sunnybrook’s Harquail Centre of Neuromodulation quickly built upon Sunnybrook’s early success in focused ultrasound, launching world-first clinical trials using focused ultrasound in Alzheimer’s disease, ALS and Parkinson’s disease; the first North American clinical trials for severe depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder; and deep brain stimulation in post-traumatic stress disorder, treatment-resistant alcohol use disorder and more. Deeply interdisciplinary in its approach, the Harquail Centre supports a critical mass of experts in surgery, internal medicine, psychiatry, neurology and other fields.

About Sunnybrook

Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre is inventing the future of health care for the 1.3 million patients the hospital cares for each year through the dedication of its more than 10,000 staff and volunteers. An internationally recognized leader in research and education and a full affiliation with the University of Toronto distinguishes Sunnybrook as one of Canada’s premier academic health sciences centres. Sunnybrook specializes in caring for high-risk pregnancies, critically ill newborns and adults, offering specialized rehabilitation and treating and preventing cancer, cardiovascular disease, neurological and psychiatric disorders, orthopaedic and arthritic conditions and traumatic injuries. The Hospital also has a unique and national leading program for the care of Canada’s war veterans.

About the University of Toronto

Founded in 1827, the University of Toronto is Canada’s top university with a long history of challenging the impossible and transforming society through the ingenuity and resolve of its faculty, students, alumni and supporters.

We are proud to be one of the world’s top research-intensive universities, bringing together top minds from every conceivable background and discipline to collaborate on the world’s most pressing challenges. Our community is a catalyst for discovery, innovation and progress, creating knowledge and solutions that make a tangible difference around the globe. And we prepare our students for success through an outstanding global education rooted in excellence, inclusion and close-knit learning communities.

The ideas, innovations and contributions of more than 660,000 graduates advance U of T’s impact on communities across the globe. Together, we continue to defy gravity by taking on what might seem unattainable today and generating the ideas and talent needed to build a more equitable, sustainable and prosperous future.