Update on Institute Activities – April 2018

Dear colleagues,

This month has been an active one in terms of beginning the institute’s strategic planning activities, in particular because we held the first face-to-face meeting of our Institute Advisory Board (IAB). I am pleased to be able to provide you with a brief summary of that meeting in this month’s message, as well as the results of the most recent INMHA Brain Star competition and a brief update on some of our priority research initiatives.

Institute Advisory Board Update

The INMHA IAB met in Calgary earlier this month for a day and a half of discussion and planning around our priorities and activities. The meeting was extremely productive and I would like to thank all of our IAB members for their active and thoughtful participation.

The IAB is an extension of the INMHA team and plays an important role in bridging everything CIHR does in brain and mental health with the neuroscience, mental health and addiction communities. Currently the board comprises eight members and we anticipate adding approximately four new members following the most recent call for nominations.

The role of the board is to advise the institute on annual expenditures and initiatives that will ultimately strengthen Canadian research in our mandate areas. On the first day of our recent meeting, the board discussed our current initiatives (epigenetics, dementia, traumatic brain injury and concussion, youth mental health and international activities), as well as our new initiatives (cannabis, opioids and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)), a review of our financial commitments and opportunities, and a discussion on INMHA’s role in both the Canadian Brain Research Strategy and the International Brain Initiative.

Day two focused on strategic planning, which was particularly engaging and productive. After a general review of the institute’s gap areas and anticipated activities in the coming months, the board decided to form three subcommittees, which will begin work immediately. Those subcommittees will focus on:

  • The Canadian Brain Research Strategy, chaired by Yves De Koninck
  • INMHA Priorities and Capacity Building, chaired by Patricia Conrod
  • INMHA Vision and Engagement, chaired by Judy Illes

I was encouraged by the momentum that came out of these conversations and I look forward to sharing more about the board’s progress as we continue with our strategic planning. We are also preparing to post minutes from our meetings on our website so that you can read about the IAB’s discussions and activities in greater detail. The next meeting of the board is scheduled for this June, via teleconference.

Brain Star awards Announced

This month I am very pleased to be able to congratulate the recipients of our 2017 Brain Star awards. This competition is designed to recognize the excellence of research done in Canada by students and trainees in INMHA’s mandate areas. We received 50 applications for the 2017 competition, making it a highly competitive year. In total, we funded 17 awards and will be sponsoring the three top-ranked applicants to attend and present their work at the Canadian Association for Neuroscience Annual Meeting in May. The Brain Star award winners are listed on our website, and we will be posting more information on them in the coming weeks, so stay tuned!

Update on INMHA Priorities

Finally, I would like to provide you with an update on some recent activities in two of our priority research areas.


On March 26, the Minister of Health announced new measures to reduce barriers to treatment and new funding for innovative projects to address the opioid crisis. Part of this announcement included approximately $9 million in funding from CIHR, which includes $7.1 million to support 10 opioid-related projects through the latest investigator-initiated Project Grant Program funding competition, as well as $1.9 million in 2018-19 to support 22 knowledge synthesis projects. Additionally, the announcement highlighted the release of a new national clinical practice guideline on the management of opioid use disorders, published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal by the Canadian Research Initiative in Substance Misuse (CRISM). INMHA is now working with our partners on new funding opportunities for opioid research, one of which we expect to launch in the coming months.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Injury (PTSD/PTSI)

As you may know, Budget 2018 [ PDF (7.36 MB) - external link ] highlights the knowledge gap on PTSI among public safety officers and recognizes that routine exposure to traumatic events puts them at a greater risk for operational stress injuries, including PTSI. Along with other proposed investments to support the mental health of first responders (police, firefighters, paramedics) and other public safety officers, the budget commits $20 million over five years to establish a new national research consortium between CIHR and the Canadian Institute for Public Safety Research and Treatment (CIPSRT).

This is a growing initiative within INMHA’s mandate, and we are proud to be leading CIHR’s activities in this area. We look forward to collaborating with CIPSRT, as well as with other CIHR Institute partners to advance the PTSD/PTSI knowledge base in Canada. I look forward to sharing more details regarding the progress on this priority initiative in the coming months.

In closing, I would like to thank you again for your support, interest and engagement as we chart the path towards the improved brain and mental health of Canadians.

Samuel Weiss, PhD, FRSC, FCAHS
Scientific Director
CIHR Institute of Neurosciences, Mental Health and Addiction

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