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Dr. Isabelle Aubert awarded Canada Research Chair

September 30, 2020

Dr. Isabelle Aubert, Senior Scientist in Biological Sciences at Sunnybrook Research Institute (SRI) and Professor in the Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology (LMP) at the University of Toronto (U of T), has been recognized with a Tier 1 Canada Research Chair (CRC) in Brain Repair and Regeneration. Tier 1 CRCs are awarded to world leaders in their field for a seven-year term, renewable once.

The Canada Research Chair Program, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, recently released its latest appointees to Canada’s highest research honour.

“I am very fortunate to work with bright and wonderful people in my lab, at Sunnybrook, at U of T, across Canada and around the globe," said Dr. Aubert. “I am a strong advocate of excellence – scientific and otherwise – through teamwork. Research and discovery, and anything that we do, can be enhanced by our collective knowledge, expertise and creativity. I am thrilled to receive a CRC and feel honoured that our research has been recognized. Thanks to all who have contributed!”

The funding will help further Dr. Aubert and her team to develop therapies to stop neurodegeneration and promote regeneration in cases of Alzheimer's disease, the most common and untreatable age-related neurodegenerative disorder.

“We’re very privileged to have Isabelle at SRI. She is not only a world-leader in her field, but also a wonderful teacher who takes great pride in mentoring the next generation of scientists,” said Dr. Kullervo Hynynen, Vice-President of Research and Innovation at Sunnybrook. “The CRC program will not only allow Isabelle to continue her vital research, but will also open up new opportunities for collaboration and recruitment. I look forward to the discoveries Isabelle and her team will make in the coming years.”

For over a decade, Dr. Aubert, a neurobiologist, has investigated the modulation of the blood-brain barrier by focused ultrasound for the delivery of therapeutic molecules, cells and genes to the brain. Her pivotal findings include that, in addition to facilitating the entry of therapeutics to the brain, a brief alteration of the blood-brain barrier by focused ultrasound itself–without additional therapeutics–promotes brain repair. This work was done in collaboration with Dr. Kullervo Hynynen, physicist and pioneer in transcranial MRI-guided focused ultrasound.

Dr. Aubert’s preclinical discoveries have been foundational in shaping an emerging field of research: the neurobiology of focused ultrasound. This work supported the rapid translation to the clinic, including the first clinical trials for blood-brain barrier modulation by focused ultrasound in patients with Alzheimer’s disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) at Sunnybrook. Recently, her team completed preclinical studies using focused ultrasound to deliver treatments to boost the health and function of brain cells responsible for learning and memory, which are affected in Alzheimer’s disease.

Dr. Rita Kandel, Chair of the Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology (LMP) at U of T commented, “I am delighted that Dr. Aubert has been recognized with a CRC. Isabelle is an excellent researcher and she and her team are doing transformational work that promises to impact clinical care. Her commitment to wellness, equity, inclusion and diversity diffuses through all she does, and has a great influence on the department.”

At SRI, Dr. Aubert joins existing Tier 1 chairs Dr. David Andrews, Dr. JoAnne McLaurin, Dr. Donald Redelmeier, Dr. Bojana Stefanovic, Dr. Graham Wright, and Tier 2 chair Dr. Meaghan O’Reilly.