The W. Garfield Weston Foundation, through its Weston Brain Institute, contributed a landmark $16.7 million philanthropic grant to establish the Weston Family Focused ultrasound Initiative at Sunnybrook, one of Canada’s premier academic health centers. This initiative seeks to revolutionize how brain disorders, from Alzheimer’s disease to brain cancer, are treated. Now with the grant is place, the Foundation is spearheading a $33 million initiative to develop and bring novel focused ultrasound technology to Canadians.
The Watson Family Initiative seeks to accelerate the development of a powerful new focused ultrasound device to enable the personalized treatment of brain disorders. The foundation and its collaborative seeks to launch three clinical trials to accelerate the commercialization of this new technology.
A Model for Transformation
The Weston Family seeks to make this contribution and associated model a template for philanthropic grant making in Canada and hopes that it can be scaled and modeled by other Canadian charitable foundations for the purpose of fueling discovery and potential reinvestment in homegrown innovation.
Sunnybrook’s Dr. Kullervo Hynynen, physician and vice president of research & innovation, leads a team that is completing a prototype of a new focused ultrasound device. From one-size-fits-all to made-to-measure, the new device offers an unprecedented level of precision. Designed to specifically harness focused ultrasound to open the blood-brain barrier—that is the brain’s tightly packed network of vessels that both protect it from toxins and prevents potential harmful agents from entering—such as chemotherapy, antibodies, stem cells or gene therapy, a heretofore no possible level of personalization and portability are on the horizon.
Dr. Hynynen notes, “Each device will be custom-produced based on scans of individual patients. It’s also frameless, making it more economical for clinical use since it does not require the real-time use of MRI. Finally, it is more comfortable for the patient. Not only is it completely non-invasive, but it can treat multiple locations in the brain at one time making the procedure shorter.”
Complete the Prototype & Test on Three Cancers
The primary goal of the initiative will be the completion of a prototype of the new device and a demonstration of the efficacy in Canadians with various brain diseases. The ultimate aim, to advance ultrasound technology, expediting treatment without the need for MRI guidance, and ultimately bring the technology to Canadians faster via clinical trials. The Sunnybrook clinical team, led by Dr. Nir Lipsman, will test the device across three brain disorders including Alzheimer’s disease, breast cancer that has spread to the brain, and glioblastoma (the deadliest and most common brain tumor).
About the W. Garfield Weston Foundation
For three generations, The W. Garfield Weston Foundation has pursued its mission to enhance and enrich the lives of Canadians. With a focus on health and landscapes, the Foundation aims to catalyze inquiry and innovation to bring about long-term change. Now in its sixth decade, the Foundation continues to collaborate with a broad range of Canadian charities to further world-class research, explore new ideas, and create tangible benefits for the communities in which it works
About Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre
Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre is inventing the future of health care for the 1.3 million patients the hospital cares for each year through the dedication of its more than 10,000 staff and volunteers. An internationally recognized leader in research and education and a full affiliation with the University of Toronto, Sunnybrook is distinguished as one of Canada’s premier academic health sciences centres. Sunnybrook specializes in caring for high-risk pregnancies, critically-ill newborns and adults, offering specialized rehabilitation and treating and preventing cancer, cardiovascular disease, neurological and psychiatric disorders, orthopedic and arthritic conditions and traumatic injuries. The Hospital also has a unique and national leading program for the care of Canada’s war veterans.
Dr. Kullervo Hynynen, physician and vice president of research & innovation
Dr. Nir Lipsman, Neurosurgeon, scientist