OTTAWA ¿ According to the latest health statistics, roughly 185,000 Canadians ¿ the majority of them young males under the age of 35 ¿ live with neurotrauma injuries. Each year, more than 41,000 new spinal cord and brain injuries occur, usually as a result of motor vehicle accidents and falls. Because of their complexity, spinal cord and brain injuries are one of the primary causes of rising health care costs. Total annual direct costs to support new injury victims are over C$939 million (US$617 million). By preventing just one severe neurotrauma injury, Canada could save C$3.4 million per person, over a lifetime, in direct medical costs.

Realities such as these galvanized eight Canadian organizations to join forces, with the specific goal of finding cures for trauma to the brain and spinal cord. The Canadian Neurotrauma Research Program (CNRP) is an innovative alliance of The Rick Hansen Institute, of Vancouver; the NeuroScience Canada Foundation and NeuroPartners Canada, both of Montreal; the Ontario Neurotrauma Foundation; the Alberta Paraplegic Foundation; the British Columbia Neurotrauma Initiative; the Manitoba Neurotrauma Initiative; and the federal government, through the Medical Research Council of Canada.

Further Funding Sources Sought

Warren Bull, director of NeuroPartners Canada, an organization that funds neurosciences research, told BioWorld International that the CNRP will have a total funding of C$2 million, which will be directed for targeted research in neurotrama.

¿This research partnership will allow us to build on Canada¿s strengths in neural regeneration research, which is recognized internationally for its scientific excellence,¿ Bull said.

As its first order of business, the CNRP will direct funds that will lead to cures for neurotrauma injuries, based on a well-defined research agenda. About C$1.2 million will be invested during the first year of the program. CNRP will offer operating grants for research projects, as well as postdoctoral fellowships to support capacity building and training in the field. Five to 11 fellowships, of two to three years¿ duration, will be awarded to highly qualified postdoctoral candidates. Research grants will be awarded to five to eight projects, also with an expected life span of two to three years each, which meet the program¿s objectives. Operating grants will commence on Oct. 1, 1999.

Research activities will be supported under three broad categories: basic research, to encourage scientific investigation that may be relevant to problems created by trauma to the brain and spinal cord; focused research, directed toward an understanding of the consequences of neurotrauma; and applied research, aimed at translating promising research into preclinical and clinical investigations. As a result of this collaboration of entities, the program expects to leverage further sources of funding nationwide, in order to underwrite additional research projects.