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Slaight gift creates innovative brain centre

October 29, 2013


Through a landmark $10-million investment announced today, The Slaight Family Foundation has established The Slaight Centre for Image-Guided Brain Therapy and Repair at Sunnybrook. This centre will be the site of the world's first clinical trials using focused ultrasound to deliver therapy through the blood-brain barrier for dementia, stroke and brain tumours.

At the core of the centre is a PET-MRI scanner, a fully integrated molecular imaging system that Sunnybrook Research Institute (SRI) scientists will combine with transcranial focused ultrasound-making it the only such system in the world. This will enable scientists to move promising research from the lab to patients, using focused ultrasound to deliver therapies directly to the brain, not only to treat disease, but also to repair damage and restore function.

"The Slaight Centre for Image-Guided Brain Therapy and Repair will pioneer noninvasive treatments for diseases of the brain and mind. These will be novel solutions for some of the biggest threats to the health of Canadians," says Dr. Barry McLellan, Sunnybrook's president and CEO.

"We hope the Slaight Centre's research will lead to the day when the steady advancement of dementia is halted, when stroke is stopped in its tracks and when damaged brain tissue is regenerated, restoring the brain to a more fully functioning state," Dr. McLellan adds.

Dr. Jon S. Dellandrea, president and CEO of Sunnybrook Foundation, says The Slaight Family Foundation's investment will accelerate the pace of discovery at Sunnybrook.

"Without this private support, we would not be able to translate our discoveries to patients nearly as quickly," Dr. Dellandrea says. "The long-running generosity of The Slaight Family Foundation is an inspiring example of how donor support is allowing us to change outcomes and heal the future, for patients here and around the world."

The leading-edge PET-MRI scanner combines positron emission tomography and magnetic resonance imaging. The system achieves the gold standard of molecular imaging, by fully integrating simultaneous PET and MRI to enable the most complete 3-D picture of the brain possible.

Transcranial focused ultrasound was pioneered by SRI scientists. Integrating it into the PET-MRI scanner will allow scientists to take their preclinical results showing that drugs, gene therapy and stem cell therapy can be delivered directly to the brain in Alzheimer's disease to the next level: patients. These clinical trials promise to usher in a new era of therapy for brain disease.  

"Sunnybrook has the unique medical expertise and technological know-how to bring these treatments to people, but this cannot be done without the acquisition of a state-of-the-art PET-MRI scanner. Our family foundation is thrilled to be making this a reality," said Gary Slaight.

The Slaight Family Foundation's investment in Sunnybrook is part of a comprehensive $50-million gift to five health sciences centres in Toronto that will make a life-saving difference for people locally and around the world.

Click here for the Slaight Family news release.