Buzzing with excitement and filled with ground-breaking ideas, the next generation of brain scientists are eager to push the envelope and take us deeper into the unknown. From exploring the effects of cannabis in pregnancy, to turning skin cells into brain cells, Canada’s early-career researchers are ready to revolutionize the field of neuroscience. But there is often one common element preventing  them from using their talent to bring Canada to the forefront of innovation – funding.

Undeniably, innovation is important, even imperative, for gaining new scientific knowledge and contributing to better health outcomes for people. But it comes at a cost. Securing funding can be extremely challenging for budding researchers who are just getting started and may not have years of proven success to back up their daring proposals. The obstacles they face can be significant enough they may discourage potential research pioneers from moving ahead with their out-of-the-box research projects.

Early-career funding

So how can we help researchers at this critical juncture explore their boldest and brightest ideas?

The Azrieli Foundation is doing just that through Brain Canada’s Future Leaders in Canadian Brain Research grants program. Twenty researchers were selected for the 2019 competition, and applications for the 2020 cohort are currently being reviewed.

This program is supported by an anchor gift from the Azrieli Foundation, which enables up to 20 Canadian neuroscientists to receive a grant of $100,000, with the aim to fund a similar number of researchers every year for a total of five years.

“This grant competition is a transformative initiative at a time when there is a significant funding gap for our brightest early-career investigators,” notes Dr. Naomi Azrieli, Chair of the Brain Canada Board of Directors and Chair and CEO of the Azrieli Foundation. “They are at a critical point in their careers: poised to make major contributions to Canadian brain research but in need of seed funding to gain experience.”

Following the 2019 competition launch, a total of 150 candidates submitted letters of intent which underwent peer review – a clear demonstration of how crucial this type of funding is for Canada’s emerging talent. Fifty-three researchers were subsequently invited to submit full, comprehensive grant applications, with the 20 grant recipients chosen after a second round of peer review.

“It’s really hard early in your career, especially with the pandemic, setting up a new lab,” notes Dr. Jo Anne Stratton, Assistant Professor at the Montreal Neurological Institute, McGill University, and a 2019 Azrieli Future Leader in Canadian Brain Research. “We’re very grateful that there are initiatives like these for brain researchers.”

Dr. Stratton’s research is focused on learning more about the inflammation-causing molecules found in people with Multiple Sclerosis, and how they cause damage to the brain. Her big dream for neuroscience is to cure neurodegenerative diseases like Multiple Sclerosis.

By investing in big dreamers like Dr. Stratton, Brain Canada, through the generosity of the Azrieli Foundation and other donors, is helping build the next generation of brain science leaders.

“It is our way of supporting really innovative ideas,” says Brain Canada President and CEO Dr. Viviane Poupon. “We bet on the scientists we think are going to be the future stars in neuroscience.”

Visit to see the ground-breaking research Canada’s up-and-coming brain scientists are working on.

This Project has been made possible with the financial support of Health Canada, through the Canada Brain Research Fund, an innovative partnership between the Government of Canada (through Health Canada) and Brain Canada, and the Azrieli Foundation.

The 2019 Azrieli Future Leaders in Canadian Brain Research

grant recipients are conducting research at institutions across Canada.