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Dr. Henry A. Dunn, Principal Investigator in the Division of Neurodegenerative Disorders at St. Boniface Hospital Research, is poised to make significant contributions to the field of neurobiological research. He has been honored as one of the select recipients of the Future Leaders in Canadian Brain Research (FLCBR) fund. This prestigious program grants $100,000 to support groundbreaking research aimed at finding solutions for a range of brain disorders and diseases, including ALS, epilepsy, and brain injuries.

After dedicating time to research at The Scripps Research Institute in Jupiter, Florida, he was eager to return to his native Canada to continue his pioneering work. He expressed his gratitude, saying, “To be recognized by the Brain Canada Foundation not only provides crucial funding for early-career researchers like me but also opens doors to collaboration within the Canadian scientific community on a national level.”

Dr. Dunn’s research focuses on the study of receptors in brain cells, known as neurons, that play a critical role in facilitating communication between neurons. These receptors, known as G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs), are fundamental targets within the pharmaceutical industry, with over 35 percent of drugs utilizing them as a treatment pathway.

His innovative work has unveiled a new mechanism by which GPCRs communicate with other brain cells, a mechanism found to be disrupted in various brain disorders, including autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and epilepsy. Dr. Dunn’s approach offers a potential new avenue for drug design, introducing a novel signaling pathway and a more precise drug targeting interface. He emphasized, “This is groundbreaking neurobiology, and we anticipate uncovering more such mechanisms among other receptors, which could facilitate the targeting of additional diseases.”

The potential impact of Dr. Dunn’s research is significant, with direct implications for patients as treatments are developed. “We’ve already identified families with members who have mutations in this specific pathway. Their understanding of this atypical signaling mechanism could offer them direct benefits,” Dr. Dunn stated.

The Brain Canada Foundation, since 2019, has been acknowledging the most promising and innovative brain research in Canada, with a particular focus on early-career Canadian researchers, providing funding over a two-year period. This program is made possible through the Canada Brain Research Fund (CBRF), a collaborative initiative involving the Government of Canada (through Health Canada), the Brain Canada Foundation, and the Azrieli Foundation, with support from The Erika Legacy Foundation, The Arrell Family Foundation, the Segal Foundation, and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).