Dr. Viviane Poupon
President & CEO, Brain Canada
Brain Canada brings together brilliant scientists to drive innovative research.
Despite the crucial role it plays in our ability to exist and function, the brain isn’t fully understood and continues to hold many mysteries.
Dr. Viviane Poupon, a highly-accomplished neuroscientist, was appointed Brain Canada’s President and CEO in September 2020. She leads the national organization’s efforts to fund innovative brain research across Canada. “We need to understand the brain better because it’s the body’s most complex organ,” says Dr. Poupon. “If we don’t understand the healthy brain, there’s no way we can successfully treat the brain in illness. It’s very important to find solutions for when the brain stops functioning optimally.”
Finding answers to critical questions
Since its founding more than 20 years ago, Brain Canada has worked to enable and support brain research, using an interdisciplinary approach, convening and connecting researchers, partners, and donors. “We really want to foster collaboration and bring together people and organizations that haven’t been working together historically,” says Dr. Poupon. “That’s where the breakthroughs can happen.”
By sharing knowledge and scientific data freely among stakeholders, dramatic results can be achieved, as the world saw in the unprecedented rapid development of COVID-19 vaccines. Brain Canada hopes that by fostering collaboration and removing information silos, all parties can advance and accelerate the understanding of the brain. Its multi-faceted approach is currently supporting more than 300 grants, involving over 1,000 scientists and 115 institutions.
Key partnerships for advancing research
The Canada Brain Research Fund, established in 2011, is a partnership between Brain Canada and Health Canada designed to encourage Canadians to increase their support of brain research and to maximize the impact and efficiency of those investments. This visionary commitment by the federal government will ensure that Canada continues to be among the leaders in the global challenge to understand brain function and brain diseases. More than simply contributing public money to this vital cause, the matching nature of the fund is stimulating and rallying private donations and other non-governmental funders to support transformative brain research.
“The Government of Canada recognized neuroscience as one area that might have been under-funded in the past,” explains Dr. Poupon. “At the same time, we had outstanding assets in the research community, and it was clear that the impact on the health of Canadians, if we could work together, would be significant.”
Due to the pandemic, certain subject areas have increased urgency, like neuro degeneration — the brain health of seniors. “We’ve seen that people in long-term care facilities are very susceptible,” notes Dr. Poupon. “We need a sustainable health care system and access to better care for seniors so that they can stay at home as long as possible.”
Focused on the future
COVID-19 has also emphasized the urgent need to address the gaps in mental health care. “The pandemic has made it even more obvious that the time to act is now, and that we must invest in neuroscience to understand the brain’s role and to develop optimal treatment options,” says Dr. Poupon, underlining Brain Canada’s new mental health initiative, the $4M Bell Let’s Talk — Brain Canada Mental Health Research Program, which aims to advance the science around mental health by awarding grants to innovators in the field.
Brain Canada also strives to support the next generation of researchers through its Future Leaders in Canadian Brain Research program, which provides funding to young researchers just beginning their careers. “It’s our way of supporting really innovative ideas,” says Dr. Poupon. “We bet on the scientists we think are going to be the future stars in neuroscience.