00:00 / 00:00
Latest news

Celebrating a decade of excellence in brain health

On February 8, donors and friends of the Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health gathered to celebrate a decade of excellence in research, education and patient care since the official opening of the building in 2014.

It all began back in 2011 when the late Dr. Djavad Mowafaghian donated $15 million towards the construction of a new facility to unite research and patient care under one roof at the University of British Columbia (UBC). On February 8, donors and friends of the Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health gathered to celebrate a decade of excellence in research, education and patient care since the official opening of the building in 2014. The generosity of the Djavad Mowafaghian Foundation has catalyzed all the achievements of the Centre and inspired a community of donors who support many aspects of the Centre’s work.

“I’d like to express my heartfelt appreciation to the Djavad Mowafaghian Foundation and the late Dr. Mowafaghian—thank you so much for putting your trust in UBC more than a decade ago,” said Dr. Benoit-Antoine Bacon, UBC’s President and Vice-Chancellor. “The ripple effect of your investment in this state-of-the-art facility is felt throughout BC, across the country, and beyond.”

Over the last 10 years, the Centre has become the heart of the neuroscience community at UBC. It is now comprised of over 150 interdisciplinary foundational and clinical scientists who span numerous faculties and departments across UBC’s campuses, its affiliated hospital sites and also various institutions across Canada.

Uniting research and patient care

“The wonderful thing about the Centre is that it works as a hub that integrates multiple disciplines. It brings together experts and learners from different fields and connects them with patients, families and communities,” said Dr. Dermot Kelleher, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine and Vice-President, Health at UBC. “This has served as a blueprint for interdisciplinary team science across the Faculty of Medicine that is integral to our vision to transform health for everyone.”

Leveraging the proximity between clinical and foundational researchers within the Centre, five Integrated Research Programs (IRPs) have been created to foster cross-disciplinary research and innovation in translational research. Comprised of clinicians and scientists ranging from mathematicians, computational scientists, physicists and psychologists to cellular and molecular biologists, the Centre’s members are working together to understand the functions and biological processes of the brain, to uncover how and why certain diseases occur.

The Centre is home to six clinics, spanning areas such as Alzheimer disease, Huntington disease, Multiple Sclerosis, depression and movement disorders, each with a shared goal: to improve the diagnosis, treatment and quality of life of people living with brain disorders. In the past year alone, the clinics have conducted over 21,000 patient encounters and spearheaded dozens of clinical research studies.

An integral part of accelerating collaboration and synergy are the Centre’s core facilities, which provide researchers, clinicians and trainees with access to state-of-the-art equipment and technologies. Among these, the Charles E. Fipke Integrated Neuroimaging Suite (FINS) helps to understand brain structure and function and test new therapies in clinical trials, while the NeuroImaging and NeuroComputation Centre (NINC) provides advanced microscopy and imaging systems and support for big data analysis. The Borgland Family Brain Tissue and DNA Bank is a centralized resource for the collection, storage, and distribution of more than 6,000 human DNA samples, while the Preclinical Discovery Centre provides state-of-the-art animal care facilities to support researchers located throughout the UBC Hospital site. In addition, the Rudy North Lecture Theatre creates a space for education and community building, and has hosted thousands of classes, seminars and public events over the last 10 years.

“By combining foundational mechanistic brain research on the top floors with patient care on the lower floors of the building, we truly have created a pipeline to bring benchtop discoveries to the clinic and improve brain health for all of BC and beyond,” said Dr. Lynn Raymond, Director of the Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health.

Training the next generation

The Centre has also fostered a nurturing and supportive educational environment that has provided opportunities for thousands of trainees. In addition to the highly successful Graduate Program in Neuroscience, UBC recently launched a new undergraduate program, which provides students with an excellent background in neuroscience that will position them to apply their unique training to tackle complex problems in healthcare, research and policy.

When the Centre first opened in 2014, Dr. Sophie Stukas was just completing her PhD in UBC’s Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine under the supervision of Dr. Cheryl Wellington. She is now a Research Associate and Director of Fluid Biomarkers research in the Wellington Lab. In the last 10 years, the blood tests developed within the Wellington Lab, in conjunction with labs around the world, are beginning to transition from basic research tools into clinical practice, helping to diagnose concussions and Alzheimer disease and to monitor patients with Multiple Sclerosis.

“Over the past decade, we have built an internationally recognized program of research that has provided me with the opportunity to nurture a rewarding career as a research scientist here at UBC,” said Dr. Stukas. “Our success has not been in isolation. The Centre provides much more than just four walls to work within – it provides a space where clinical and basic science come together, allowing creativity and synergy to thrive. As basic scientists, we depend on our clinical colleagues to interface with patients and ensure our research addresses the most urgent needs.”

In the years to come, the Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health is poised to continue to grow and advance its mission of promoting brain health through innovative research, education and patient care in British Columbia and across Canada.

“As a researcher in neuroscience, I appreciate the significant advances that have been made possible by this world-class facility here at UBC and I am so honoured to have been asked to join the Centre as a member,” said Dr. Bacon. “This is so much more than a building – this is a home where a community of foundational and clinical research teams collaborate and work together toward the ultimate goal of advancing brain health across the life course.”