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Western University and McGill University officially launched the McGill-Western Collaboration Grant program last Tuesday in support of cross-institution neuroscience research. 

The McGill-Western Collaboration Grant was developed by Western's BrainsCAN and McGill’s Healthy Brains for Healthy Lives, two of Canada's leading institutes in brain research. The grant will combine research efforts across institutions by supporting new and established collaborative teams and all project types and sizes.

The grant is funded by a $150-million investment from the Canada First Research Excellence Fund in BrainsCan and HBHL. The programs agreed to develop joint research proposals that involve a lead researcher from each of the two universities as part of the funding agreement.

“The federal government wanted us to collaborate on initiatives … essentially to address some of the grand challenges in brain health [through] high-risk, high-gain research projects,” said Ravi Menon, the co-scientific director of BrainsCAN.

Research projects must be led by one McGill and one Western researcher to be eligible for the grant. The program encourages the participation of interdisciplinary and diverse research teams. Further, the research projects must clearly address the strategic priorities of BrainsCAN and HBHL. Menon hopes the grant will incentivize collaborations.

“McGill is good at certain things that we aren’t, and we’re good at certain things that they aren’t, so the logic is if you can bring these two groups together, then we can actually address some of the tough challenges in the neurosciences,” Menon said.

The grant funds two types of research projects, explained Menon. Foundational Projects are one-year grants in the range of $25,000 to $100,000 that help new collaborations get off the ground and ensure they work across a distance. Once a collaboration is established, researchers can then apply for Larger Programs, which are multi-year grants of over $100,000 per year.

The network of collaboration promises to uncover new ways to treat, prevent and cure brain disorders. A 2014 national study estimated 3.6 million Canadians are affected by neurological conditions. By 2031, the number of Canadians who are 65 years or older will shift from 15 to 23 per cent of the Canadian population, increasing both the prevalence and costs of neurological disorders, such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other diseases common in old age. Costs of neurological conditions in Canada currently total billions of dollars annually.

“This is the first major joint university proposal that's been funded by the [Canada First Research Excellence Fund],” Menon said. “So [we’re] really looking forward to seeing what comes in.”

Applications for the program are now open. Researchers who do not have existing collaborations may contact the Collaboration Liaison at the partner institution for directions on possible contacts. An information session will also be held on March 7th in Western Interdisciplinary Research Building in room 6111.

The deadline to submit an application is May 1. Applicants can expect results by late July.

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