health research in canada
© Atthapon Raksthaput

Open Access Government discerns the priorities of the Institute of Neurosciences, Mental Health and Addiction, which examines health research in Canada

Canada’s health research investment agency, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) know well that research can change lives. As such, CIHR works with researchers and partners to support innovations and discoveries that strengthen Canada’s healthcare systems and improve the health of individuals. Created in 2000, CIHR provides leadership to health researchers and trainees across the country, through the work of its 13 Institutes. (1)

The 13 Institutes have a common objective to achieve the basic mandate of CIHR, as the CIHR Act puts it: “The objective of CIHR is to excel, according to internationally accepted standards of scientific excellence, in the creation of new knowledge and its translation into improved health for Canadians, more effective health services and products and a strengthened Canadian health care system.”

Institute of Neurosciences, Mental Health and Addiction

Certainly, the 13 CIHR Institutes build upon and promote Canada’s solid track record of excellence in research. (2) A fitting example of this is the Institute of Neurosciences, Mental Health and Addiction (INMHA), who in a nutshell are supportive of research that enhances not only neurological health, but also mental health, vision, hearing, and cognitive functioning and to lower the burden of related disorders by means of prevention strategies, screening, diagnosis, treatment, support systems plus palliation. (3)

Certainly, the INMHA contributes to the CIHR mandate with an inspiring vision of science described on their website as excellent, but also, innovative and ethically responsible, plus well-supported. Their work encompasses “all aspects of nervous system and mental health research and clinical translation that results in quality healthcare, and respects the diversity of culture and values of all Canadians,” INMHA explain.

Of course, cutting-edge Canadian-led research should lead to new knowledge about the sociocultural and biological processes beneath neurologic, addiction disorders and mental health, but also promote optimal healthcare, quality of life and outcomes, INMHA state when describing their bold mission. (4)

CIHR always aligns health research funding that reflects changes in how health opportunities and issues are identified, addressed and understood. Certainly, for INMHA, this means strategic funding is mobilised to cater for some of the most urgent brain and mental health needs of the Canadian people. Such an approach, of course, builds a sustainable and solid foundation for researchers to respond to knowledge gaps and work towards nothing less than the greatest global impact of Canadian neuroscience.

When it comes to INMHA-funded research, the commitment is clearly one to support the best quality in science, as well as advocating scientific rigour in Canadian neuroscience, for example, towards the best possible neurological health for all people in Canada. (5) In the words of Dr Samuel Weiss Scientific Director, CIHR-INMHA, INMHA is “committed to supporting the highest-quality science and advanced methodologies, and championing scientific rigour in Canadian neuroscience, mental health and addiction research as a means to promote optimal neurological health and mental wellness for all Canadians.” (6)

It’s interesting to note here that together with Dr Fritz Sladeczek in 1985, Dr Weiss discovered the metabotropic glutamate receptor – which today is a significant target for “for pharmaceutical research and development for neurological disease therapies”. In 1992, Dr Weiss pioneered neural stem cells in the brains of adult mammals, health research in Canada that led to fresh perspectives for brain cell replacement and repair, plus experimental, novel therapeutic strategies concerning brain cancer. (7)

The NMHA Strategic Plan 2020-2022

The INMHA Strategic Plan helps to guide and define the INMHA’s major health research initiatives and as such, several meetings with the scientific community and INMHA members were set up to discuss the opportunities, issues and interests and in various fields of research and training that CIHR work on. (8) When the COVID-19 pandemic was declared over two years ago, the INMHA Strategic Plan 2020-2022 was delayed (the plan before that covered the years from 2012-2017).

Added to the aforementioned delay, it became apparent that Canadians were collectively experiencing a traumatic event, which would result in substantial mental health implications that need attention. As such, CIHR spearheaded, with the leadership of INMHA’s, a COVID-19 and Mental Health Initiative. “This proactive response to provide urgent knowledge and evidence to support decision-making throughout the mental health responses to the pandemic is a collaboration with Health Canada (HC), the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) and five additional CIHR Institutes,” the INMHA website details.

Certainly, the NMHA Strategic Plan 2020-2022 will further develop its strategy for supporting Canadian neuroscience research. Let’s finish with the words of Dr Samuel Weiss, who says that when supporting competitions for brain and mental health research funding, this is where “INMHA can have the most impact and generate the greatest return on investment in the near term, while simultaneously establishing a firm base of support for Canadian neuroscience to grow and contribute internationally.” (9)


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