This month's brainbuzz™ features exciting updates about a new CAMH spinoff company; the launch of a first-of-its-kind Canadian Youth Mental Health Insight Platform; and a participant's story on how Indigenous research at CAMH is healing intergenerational trauma. If you have any questions or feedback, please reach out at any time.
CAMH Spin-Off Company Advances Work to Treat Cognitive Deficits
We are pleased to share that CAMH's spin-off company DAMONA Pharmaceuticals, with the support of CAMH, the Ontario Brain Institute, the Angelini Lumira Biosciences Fund and Noetic Fund, announced the closing of a seed stage financing round to support the development of a new molecule for the treatment of cognitive symptoms associated with depression and diseases of aging. DAMONA is a privately held pre-clinical pharmaceutical company founded by Dr. Etienne Sibille and CAMH.
Proceeds from this financing will support the development of the molecule, which has generated promising data in preclinical models. Through their CAMH research, Dr. Sibille and his team have demonstrated that their molecule has the ability to specifically target and activate impaired brain receptors and rapidly improve cognitive symptoms while renewing and repairing underlying brain dysfunctions to help resolve previously unresolvable symptoms.
“This investment brings us one step closer to helping the millions of people affected by cognitive symptoms associated with depression and diseases of aging,” said Dr. Aristotle Voineskos, Vice President of Research and Director of the Campbell Family Mental Health Research Institute at CAMH.
This exciting development was made possible through the hard work and dedication of the Industry Partnerships and Technology Transfer Office (IPTTO), including Konrad Powell-Jones, Commercialization Specialist, who provided support throughout the process as the project lead on the team. The IPTTO’s mission is to identify and protect CAMH inventions, map their path to market and commercialize these unique discoveries. Ultimately, this leads to heightened industry awareness of CAMH research and facilitates strategic partnerships. The IPTTO also promotes an entrepreneurial culture at CAMH, generates revenue for inventors and reinvests back into the Hospital.
“Technology transfer efforts ensure that CAMH research is transformed into products and services that can have a lasting impact on the lives of patients globally. IPTTO members are happy to be part of this complicated and exciting journey to establish and foster partnerships with multiple stakeholders with the ultimate goal of translating CAMH’s innovative research into tangible outcomes that benefit our society,” explained Dr. Klara Vichnevetski, Director of Industry Partnerships and Technology Transfer, Research Operations, Services & Support.
The IPTTO is currently working on more than 20 commercialization projects ranging from early-stage to fully commercialized ventures. These projects cover many different types of inventions including new diagnostic methods, methods of medical treatment, digital health interventions, pharmacogenetic markers, clinical decision support tools, imaging methods and markers, and AI-driven predictive and mathematical models.
“Another exciting research commercialization update relates to the nutraceutical created by Dr. Jeffrey Meyer for the prevention of postpartum blues, which is being licensed to a well-positioned pharmaceutical company that is planning a global launch of the product by summer 2023,” added Vichnevetski.
CAMH to create groundbreaking youth mental health data platform
Knowledge exchange initiative to improve quality of research and care for young people Canada-wide
The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), in collaboration withyouth, family, service providers, policymakers, as well as health researchers and data scientists from across Canada, announced today it will build “Canadian Youth Mental Health Insight Platform (CYMHI)”, powered by RBC Future Launch, with support from Power Corporation, and the Canada Brain Research Fund (CBRF). This is a first-of-its-kind Canada-wide cooperative effort between youth mental health stakeholders across the spectrum, especially youth and their families. The result will empower the sharing of and learning from mental health data to better prevent, diagnose and treat youth mental illness in Canada.
Mental illness is the leading national cause of disability among those aged 15-29, with an estimated one in four Canadian youth in need of mental health services each year.
“We know that many youth in Canada are in crisis,” said Dr. Joanna Henderson, Director of CAMH’s Margaret and Wallace McCain Centre for Child, Youth & Family Mental Health, and project co-lead. “Young people are experiencing mental health challenges now more than ever, but there are so many barriers to care: lack of local services, lack of access to the best treatments, and lack of cohesion among experts working to solve these problems. The CYMHI will address these problems by connecting youth, families, researchers, policymakers and community organizations to improve services and programming for youth across the country.”
CAMH leads the pan-Canadian team that has been awarded a $5.13-million grant for this project over three years via a 2021 open call for applications to the Brain Canada Youth Mental Health Platform, powered by RBC Future Launch, with support from Power Corporation.
“The state-of-the-art informatics tool will incorporate information from diverse organizations across the country including academic institutions, community-based mental health services, hospitals, and youth and family advisories from organizations such as Foundry, Youth Wellness Hubs Ontario and other youth substance use and mental health services,” said Dr. Sean Hill, Director of CAMH’s Krembil Centre of Neuroinformatics, and principal investigator. “The CYMHI platform will facilitate high-impact research and the development of innovative youth mental health approaches that would otherwise not be possible.”
The interactive web portal will enable knowledge sharing in creative new ways. One feature will be personalized services tool to match youth based on their unique needs to available services in their area. It will include precision modelling to predict the future needs of individual youth and help them and their families make decisions about their care. And, it will also incorporate a national atlas of service demand & utilization—the largest of its kind ever built—to help decision-makers understand a community’s youth mental health needs in order to better allocate resources.
Cierra Garrow is an advisor on the project with first-hand experience of trying to navigate the youth mental health system: “In high school I tried to end my life three times before I was finally able to access help. And even then, I had to travel six hours away from home to get the treatment I needed to be healthy. The CYMHI platform will help ensure that young people across the country have access to the best practices and evidence-informed treatments no matter where they live. This will allow youth to have informed consent of their treatment options and make decisions for their care that fit their needs best. CAMH is also building young people’s voices and concerns into the DNA of this project. It’s making knowledge accessible to everyone, not just a privileged few, removing the silos and gate keeping in the youth mental health sector.”
“It is about bringing everyone together to share and exchange what we are living, and learning,” says CYMHI leadership team member Steve Mathias, Executive Director at Providence Health Care and leader of Foundry, a British Columbia network of centres that offer young people health and wellness resources, services and supports both in person and virtually. “Right now, 9 out of 10 provinces are funding services with research components, but there is no link or synergy across the provinces. British Columbia can’t learn from New Brunswick, and Ontario is missing evidence from Saskatchewan and so on. We need to standardize and harmonize the collection of data and tools to do better for our youth.”
“More than ever, brain research is critical in helping us, as a community, recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and mitigate its effects on the brain and our mental health,” says Dr. Viviane Poupon, Brain Canada President and CEO. “We must invest in projects like these that will lead to concrete impacts on brain health for youth in Canada.”
Funding for the Brain Canada Youth Mental Health Platform,
powered by RBC Future Launch, with support from Power Corporation, has been made possible by the Canada Brain Research Fund (CBRF), an innovative arrangement between the Government of Canada (through Health Canada) and Brain Canada Foundation, RBC Foundation and Power Corporation. To learn more, visit www.braincanada.ca.
Traditional knowledge is saving lives today
Research in First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities in Canada is evolving rapidly, as Indigenous communities are mobilizing to develop culturally appropriate studies of mental health. Amid this changing landscape, CAMH researchers and Indigenous communities are initiating research projects that have meaningful impacts on people’s lives
Awakening the spirit within
For the first 35 years of his life, Eddie Gough had no idea who he truly was.
Born to an Indigenous mother from the Wikwemikoong Unceded Territory on Manitoulin Island in Northern Ontario, he was adopted by a white family in a Toronto suburb and grew up with no connection of to his ancestry of any kind. He never even knew another Indigenous person until the day he arrived at the CAMH emergency department six years ago.
Addicted to drugs including alcohol and in a state of suicidal despair in the wake of his best friend’s suicide, he was referred to what was then called the Aboriginal Service at CAMH, a decision he says saved his life.
"When I walked in there for the first time, I didn’t realize what a life-altering experience it would be. I finally felt that connection to what I had been thinking about my whole life without even knowing that this is what I was seeking. "
"That moment was the true start of my own healing journey. I understand now that there was a depth to of a lot of those hurts and many factors, including intergenerational trauma that began well before my own birth. I believe my addiction, that trying to turn down the noise in my head, was a coping tool to repress a lot of those deeper hurts."
Eddie says he realizes now that from the time he was a young child, he wore a metaphorical mask for every occasion. The one he wore to school. The one he wore when he went home to his adopted family. The one he wore as a young man trying to navigate his way through the world.
“Children watch the world and being adopted into a Western family, I saw very quickly that there was something different about me and I interpreted that as meaning there was something wrong with me. I craved love and affection but at the same time I felt I was undeserving of it. The more I tried to let it in, the more lost and scared I became.”
Eddie’s journey has taken him back full circle to where it all began–to Manitoulin Island—where is lives with his partner on the Aundeck Omni Kaning First Nation Reserve.
He now mentors Indigenous young adults as a mental health and addiction counsellor based on the land. For 90 days, groups of 10 to 15 Indigenous young adults from across Ontario live continuously on
the land, reclaiming their indigenous language and identity and learning traditional Indigenous skills, including hunting and trapping and traditional medicine, while also receiving mental health support.
“The spirituality aspect of the Indigenous culture came from the land. We offer a holistic approach to healing to help others who struggle to reclaim their identities and make the necessary changes to help find them peace and contentment within themselves. We help from Indigenous knowledge keepers, we take community members out to the land along and help them make connections with Creation and the water and the animals. Because we all came from one place a long, long time ago and I think a big part of the deeper healing is making those reconnections and supporting each other to walk this Red Road, this healing path, together. A big part of my struggle with my healing journey was thinking I had to go through it alone. Watching someone come in with emptiness in their eyes and see life come back to them, seeing them learn to love themselves and believe in themselves and have opportunities that they never saw, is a big part of my own continuous healing. It’s my passion to help others along their journey with the knowledge and teachings I received from my own.”
Eddie's story is part of the featured content within the powerful Today campaign which conveys the
momentum that CAMH is creating to prevent suicide and invites people to accelerate it. Visit the campaign website to see other featured content and to learn more.