By McGill Reporter staff
New ground is about to be broken in helping prevent the devastating onset of dementia, as McGill, in partnership with Pfizer Canada, announced today the creation of a professorship for the prevention of dementia and Alzheimer’s-related diseases. The project was made possible by a $2-million donation by Pfizer Canada, complemented by a substantial investment by McGill.
The goal of this professorship, which will be held first by renowned epidemiologist and psychiatrist Dr. John Breitner, is to identify the risk factors associated with dementia and to delay its onset before the first symptoms appear. The research will also explore therapies to improve the prognosis for patients already living with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.
Breitner, who was recruited to McGill from the United States this past summer, has devoted his career to the study of Alzheimer’s. A professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Sciences and Director of the Centre for Studies on the Prevention of Alzheimer’s at the Douglas Mental Health University Institute, Breitner holds two patents in methods to help delay the onset and progression of Alzheimer’s and related disorders, has authored more than 200 papers, reviews and book chapters and is known as a gifted teacher and mentor.
Without a cure or new ways of preventing Alzheimer’s it is estimated that by 2050 the disease will afflict 1.3 million Canadians and 100 million people worldwide. According to Breitner, maintaining the status quo is simply unsustainable – particularly as our population ages – and finding a way to prevent dementia is urgent.
“Dementia is already a public-health crisis, one that could take on catastrophic proportions in the coming decades if we don’t find a way to prevent it,” he said. “We are learning how to detect the early signs of the disease. Early intervention is needed in order to prevent symptoms and slow their progression.”
“Brain research is among McGill’s top priorities, with dementia as a central theme. As one of the world’s leading centres for neuroscience research, education and care, we are in an enviable position to pioneer the latest advancements in this field,” said Dr. Richard Levin, McGill’s Vice-Principal of Health Affairs and Dean of Medicine, at Tuesday’s announcement. “With this generous support from Pfizer Canada, we are eager to break new ground and most importantly, we look forward to bringing the fruits of our work to Quebecers and to all of society,” he added.
Pfizer Canada’s gift contributes to the ongoing success of Campaign McGill: History in the Making, the University’s historic fundraising drive. To date, Campaign McGill has surpassed $580 million, thanks to the collective generosity of 79,000 donors worldwide. To learn more, visit www.mcgill.ca/campaign.