Representatives of the federal and provincial governments today marked the start of construction of a new centre at the University of British Columbia that will unite brain research and patient care.
The Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health, expected to open in 2013 at UBC Hospital, will bring together experts in the fields of psychiatry, neurology and neuroscience from UBC and Vancouver Coastal Health. The centre also will bring research in those fields closer to patients with a range of brain disorders, who will be treated in the same facility.
Today’s groundbreaking ceremony included John Duncan, the federal minister for Aboriginal affairs and northern development and Member of Parliament for Vancouver Island North, on behalf of Gary Goodyear, Federal Minister of State (Science and Technology), and Michael de Jong, the B.C. health minister. Both the federal and provincial governments provided a significant share of the funding for the $68.8 million, six-storey facility, which will be located on Wesbrook Mall.
“The Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health represents a concerted effort to unite the study of neuroscience, neurology and psychiatry, and to bring the resulting discoveries to patients with greater speed and efficacy than ever before,” said UBC President Stephen J. Toope.
The centre is named for Vancouver philanthropist Djavad Mowafaghian, whose foundation donated $15 million for the project.
“It is my hope that this facility will help lay the foundation for future discoveries in brain health and making a difference in the lives of the children of British Columbia and beyond,” said Mowafaghian, whose decision to support the project became more personally meaningful after he suffered a stroke in April 2010.
The UBC Faculty of Medicine has received three other gifts for the center, including $5 million from the Townsend family, $1.5 million from Rudy North, and $2.5 million from a private donor.
“The work that will be undertaken by the talented researchers at this centre will result in new treatments for Canadians suffering from brain diseases and disorders,” Duncan said. “The research advancements and knowledge generated by this new centre will, without a doubt, play a pivotal role in improving our country’s standard of living and quality of life.”
“Almost half of British Columbians are affected either directly or indirectly by a brain disease, including mental health disorders, stroke, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s,” de Jong said. “Today’s announcement is about providing even better care and discovering treatments to bring new hope to patients and their families.”
The centre will provide British Columbians with better access to the best possible treatments, offering immediate access to clinical trials. The centre is also designed with patients in mind, including short walking distances, simplified way-finding and numerous places where patients can rest or pause.
“By bringing together our researchers and health care teams, we can offer every patient the chance to participate in research studies, as well as the opportunity to be provided with the latest in treatment, prevention, and education,” said Dr. David Ostrow, President and Chief Executive Officer of Vancouver Coastal Health.
The centre will include a brain tissue and DNA bank, containing a wealth of valuable information collected from the centre’s patients (with their consent). The state-of-the-art repository will preserve this valuable collection of patient material, which could be used to identify genetic risk factors for diseases, and determine whether the biomarkers used to test a drug in lab mice are also present in humans.
The centre is also designed to maximize intellectual exchanges among the people inside through features such as the Synapse Garden, whose name evokes the connections between neurons, and a large atrium that will be a magnet for scientists and clinicians from surrounding buildings.
The centre will also serve as a venue for teaching and learning, where hundreds of UBC medical students and graduate students will be able to take advantage of the interdisciplinary activity and the proximity of research to patient care. Clinical spaces will have larger exam rooms and work spaces to accommodate instructional activities.
“The plans for this building go far beyond the bricks, mortar, steel and glass of the structure itself,” said Barak Caracheo, president of the Neuroscience Graduate Student Association. “The plans will allow us to look into the windows of the brain, whether through the lenses of microscopes or the eyes of patients, to better understand disease, our behaviour, and ultimately, ourselves.”
The centre will be owned and built by UBC; patient space will be leased by Vancouver Coastal Health and research space will be jointly managed by the UBC Faculty of Medicine and the Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute. The building is designed to meet the LEED Gold standard by employing a suite of sustainable strategies, focused on reduced energy consumption, conservation of water, and use of materials that are low in volatile organic compounds.
To learn more, visit www.centreforbrainhealth.ca