"Ontario will be a world-leading centre for brain research, translation and innovation."

- Mobilizing Ontario's Excellence in Brain Research


In 2008, the Ontario Innovation Trust funded a major study to assess neuroscience in Ontario and the potential for Ontario to be an international leader in neuroscience research, translation and commercialization.

The OIT recruited eminent Canadians Dr. Joseph B. Martin (Dean Emeritus, Harvard Medical School), Joseph L. Rotman (businessman and philanthropist) to lead the study.


In 2009, Joe Martin and Joe Rotman supported by, Dr. Fergus Craik (Professor at the University of Toronto and Rotman Research Institute), and Dr. Richard Murphy (retired President and CEO of Salk Institute for Biological Studies), engaged groups of world-leading neuroscience researchers from throughout the world, to explore whether Ontario could play a leadership role in the burgeoning field of neuroscience.

It was timely because recent advances in brain research brought scientists to the very threshold of developing treatments - and potential cures - for diseases and disorders of the brain that have plagued society for centuries. What was needed was a sharing of minds and a spark of life.

Through research and recommendation by the experts detailed in a report (A Proposal to Mobilize Ontario's Excellence in Brain Research), the study concluded that Ontario could be a global leader in neuroscience. Something that would benefit Ontarians, Canadians and people worldwide.


Announced in the fall of 2010, with $15M in start-up funding from the Ontario government, over the next three years, the Ontario Brain Institute would seek to create jobs, export thinking, reduce health care costs and improve the quality of life for Ontario families.


In February 2011, Dr. Donald Stuss was engaged as the President and Scientific Director. He began a “Talk and Listen” tour that reached out to 8 Ontario universities, with over 425 neuroscience participants.

In the summer of 2011, the Ontario Brain Institute received 33 workshop proposals and grouped these workshops into 7 disease-themed workshops that brought together clinicians, researchers, industry and not-for-profits from across Ontario. As a result of these workshops, 7 formal proposals for funding are received.


In March 2012, the Ontario Brain Institute announced funding of 3 pan-Ontario programs. These programs are currently underway. Results are expected as early as March 2013.

In April 2012, the Ontario Brain Institute announced the creation of Brain-CODE (Centre for Ontario Data Exploration). To create Brain-CODE, the OBI partnered with the Heart and Stroke Foundation Centre for Stroke Recovery, the Rotman Research Institute at Baycrest hospital, the Applied Health Research Centre at the Li Ka-Shing Knowledge Institute of St. Michael’s Hospital, the Ontario Cancer Biomarker Network, and the High Performance Computing Virtual Laboratory at Queen’s University.

The Brain-CODE database will store clinical data – including brain images, gene and protein data – from a broad range of brain conditions (for example: cerebral palsy, epilepsy, autism, ADHD, depression, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, traumatic brain injury). This data will help neuroscientists in Ontario and across the world to identify common risk factors for different brain diseases and disorders.

In May 2012, the Ontario Brain Institute announced a partnership with Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE) to launch the "OBI Entrepreneurs" program. This program supports post-graduate (M.Sc., PhD and post-doctoral fellows) and early-stage entrepreneurs as they move towards commercializing their discoveries to help prevent, diagnose, or treat brain conditions.

In June 2012, the Ontario Brain Institute announced a partnerhip with universities and private sector companies to help accelerate the commercialization of neurotechnologies in Ontario. The Government of Canada invested nearly $11 million into this program through their Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev) initiative. This program has also leveraged over $11 million in private sector investments.

In September of 2012 the OBI released the first issue of the Brainnovations Newsletter, a semi-annual publication highlighting stories from the OBI research and commercialization programs.

The OBI also held a ‘Brain Trials’ webinar focused on aspects of creating clinical trials for autism spectrum disorders.

In October of 2012 the OBI was designated as a ‘Privacy by Design’ Ambassador Organization for embedding the highest privacy standards into Brain-CODE regarding the collection, use, and disclosure of personal health information.

As a condition of the initial proof-of-principle funding from the Ontario government, the OBI underwent an external review of its activities and progress in the first 18 months of existence.

In November 2012 as part of the Experiential Education Initiative the OBI launched the Graduate Opportunities Internship program in conjunction with the University of Toronto Graduate Enterprise Internship Program and Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario. This program aims to provide internships for postgraduate neuroscientists which will broaden their skill sets and give them the experience they require to excel in the neurotechnology industry.

The OBI also hosted a public scientific panel discussion titled, ‘Integrating Brain Research: From Basic Science to Innovation’. The panelists for this event included Dr. Michael Gazzaniga, Dr. Sandra Black, Dr. Michael Strong, Dr. Robert Knight and Dr. Marcus Raichle. The first Brain-CODE advisory committee meeting was held to continue shaping the development of the Brain-CODE database.

The first Ontario Brain Innovation Council Information Session was held which brought together the OBI entrepreneurs, representatives from the FedDev projects and funding agencies.


In February 2013 the OBI and Canadian Institute for Advanced Research jointly hosted a neuroscience accelerator workshop where experts in the fields of basic and translational neuroscience came together to discuss recent advances and future perspectives for autism research. The culmination of the workshop was a public lecture sponsored by Autism Speaks Canada and given by Dr. Stephen Scherer titled ‘Cracking the Autism Enigma’.

In March 2013 the Ontario government announced a 5 year funding renewal for the OBI to continue funding existing research and expand its programs. The OBI released a knowledge synthesis report and accompanying webcast which found that physical activity is effective in delaying the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, and also improves the quality of life and independence of individuals already diagnosed with the disorder.

The second issue of the Brainnovations Newsletter was released highlighting how physical activity is being utilized in different OBI programs to promote brain health.

In partnership with the Ontario Centres of Excellence, the OBI launched the second round of entrepreneurial fellowships to help young entrepreneurs develop and commercialize neurotechnology products.

In April of 2013, OBI launched two new Integrated Discovery Programs  focused on depression and neurodegenerative disorders.  

In May of 2013, the eight winners of the OBI-OCE Entrepreneurial Fellowships were announced and showcased their neurotechnology products at OCE’s annual Discovery event.

In June 2013 the first annual Ontario Brain Innovation Council plenary session, which brought together members of the Ontario neurotech industry, was held at McMaster University to discuss the building of a neuroscience cluster in Ontario.

The first data sets were uploaded into Brain-CODE to take brain research and collaboration in Ontario to a new level.

In October of 2013, a workshop which began the conversation on the standardization of brain-related data was held in collaboration with NeuroDevNet.

To catalogue Ontario’s neuroscience expertise and help connect neuroscience resources across the province, OBI launched the Neuroscience Asset Map

In November 2013, OBI held an Evaluation Workshop to develop a framework to assess the health and economic impact of all OBI programs and activities.

The Neurological Health Charities of Canada recognized the Ontario Brain Institute as a 2013 Change-Maker Award recipient for the organization’s meaningful difference in improving the quality of life for Canadians living with brain conditions.

In December 2013, John Clarkson was appointed as the OBI’s new Senior Vice President. OBI’s Board Chair Mr. Joseph Rotman appointed five new Board members and re-appointed its six founding members. 


In January of 2014, OBI launched a new training program: The Graduate Opportunity (GO) Management Fellowship.

In February five Patient Advisory Committees were established for each of OBI’s research programs. The newly-formed committees were brought together for an inaugural meeting centered on connecting patients and researchers.

On February 7, 2014, OBI hosted a public talk, featuring a presentation by Dr. Tiffany Chow on brain health, largely focused on patient empowerment and self-care for caregivers.

On February 10, 2014, OBI celebrated the end of the first phase of the NeuroTech Ontario program, funded through a partnership with FedDev Ontario

OBI renewed the founding members of its Board of Directors and welcomed five new members.

In April 2014, OBI’s Phase 1 Report was released highlighting the first three years of OBI’s operations. 

In May 2014, OBI organized the second knowledge translation training event to help researchers communicate their work more effectively. 

In June 2014, OBI and the Ontario Centres of Excellence partnered with The Quebec Consortium for Drug Discovery (CQDM) on $3 million inter-provincial programs dedicated to breakthrough technologies to accelerate drug discovery and development.

On June 18, 2014 OBI held a public talk featuring Dr. Jonathan Downar on depression and brain stimulation.

In July 2014, OBI launched the Physical Activity and Alzheimer’s disease Toolkit and planning calendar which highlights evidence-based benefits of physical activity for older adults and includes suggestions and safety tips for being active daily. 

To engage with members of Ontario life science community, OBI co-hosted an inaugural networking event in partnership with Life Sciences Ontario.

In September 2014, OBI held a three-day meeting in partnership with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and the Institute for Health Policy, Management and Evaluation.  Over 50 local, national and international leaders engaged in discussion about how to link research data with health data to improve health care systems and policies for those with dementia.

In September 2014, OBI launched new neuroinformatics internship program, to help with data integration across OBI’s five Integrated Discovery programs.

In September 2014, OBI held a public talk featuring George Vradenburg on driving urgency and unity in the work of halting Alzheimer’s.

In October 2014, OBI President, Dr. Donald Stuss was selected as the recipient of The Gold Key Award from the American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine in recognition of extraordinary service in the field of rehabilitation.

OBI partners with The Ontario Science Centre (OSC) as a knowledge sponsor for ‘Brain: The Inside Story’ exhibit.


In January 2015, OBI’s outreach partnership with the Ontario Science Centre continued—the six-month initiative carried on until the end of March. The Government of Ontario celebrated its continued support of brain research across Ontario.  OBI launched the Evaluation Support Program to help not-for-profit organizations evaluate programs or services offered to individuals living with brain disorders.  In February 2015, Hugh MacKinnon was appointed as the new Chair of OBI’s Board of Directors. 

March 2015 played host to Brain Awareness Week where OBI held a public talk entitled, “Three Brains. Three Lives. Three Stories.” and released videos, featuring personal stories from people living with brain disorders.  In partnership with the Government of Ontario, IBM, and Let’s Talk Science, and the Ontario Science Centre, OBI co-hosted a field trip on March 11- 12, 2015 where high school students from Nbiising, Wikwemikong and Six Nations participated in a science and technology field trip.

In April 2015, a “Talk and Listen” was held at Sunnybrook Hospital to engage the brain research community.  The Structural Genomics Consortium at the University of Toronto and the OBI entered into an open-source research partnership with the Hospital for Sick Children and the University Health Network to advance translational epigenetic research for Rett syndrome.

In May 2015, OBI launched the Focus on Brain program in partnership with Brain Canada and CQDM to accelerate the discovery of new treatments for brain disorders.   OBI launched the new Brain-CODE web portal.  OBI’s integrated approach to neuroscience innovation was published in Nature Reviews Drug DiscoveryThe nation-wide Science Rendezvous was held on May 9, 2015, where OBI brought neuroscience out of labs into the public.

In July 2015, OBI and the Institute of Clinical Evaluative Sciences published the Brain Disorders in Ontario report that highlights the incidence, prevalence, and costs of 13 brain disorders in Ontario.

In September 2015, a partnership between OBI and the National Institute for Mental Health supported the federation of Brain-CODE and NDAR databases to drive advances in autism research in Canada and the U.S.  OBI also hosted the Neurotech Showcase that highlighted advances in the Ontario Neurotech cluster.

On October 1st, 2015, Dr. Tom Mikkelsen joined OBI as the new President and Scientific Director.    

In November 2015, OBI expanded the Board of Directors from 8 to 12 members. We hosted a joint meeting between its Science Advisory Council, Industry Advisory Council, and Patient Advisory Committee members. OBI sponsored and participated in the DementiaHack at George Brown College to engage entrepreneurs in the neurotech sector.  Founding President and Scientific Director, Dr. Donald Stuss, gave a public lecture entitled, “Lessons from Life, Lobotomies, and Lies”  that described case studies highlighting the importance of the frontal lobe.

In December 2015, OBI launched the Atlas of Ontario Neuroscience (AxON), a tool that maps the vast network of collaborations within OBI’s network. Dr. Joseph T. Coyle joined OBI’s Board of Directors as head of the Science Advisory Council.