The Brain Repair Centre began to take shape near the end of the 1990s, as a number of visionary neuroscience researchers at Dalhousie University recognized the transformational potential of their research and how much more impact they could have if they worked together in a more closely-knit collaboration. They dreamed of creating a research centre where likeminded scientists and clinicians from a wide range of related fields could work together to pioneer new methods of regenerating brain cells and nervous tissues damaged by injury, inflammation and disease.

Dr. Harry Robertson (Pharmacology), Dr. Stan Kutcher (Psychiatry), Dr. Ivar Mendez (Neurosurgery) and Dr. Steven Barnes (Physiology & Biophysics) were the early pioneers of the Brain Repair Centre, which became a formal partnership of Dalhousie University, Capital Health, the IWK Health Centre and the National Research Council early in the new millennium. A number of leading researchers re-located to Halifax to join the collaboration, which began attracting more research funding and training larger numbers of graduate students and post-docs in labs all across the university and its affiliated teaching hospitals.

“Curing the incurable” became the mission of the Brain Repair Centre researchers, who sought breakthrough discoveries about the workings of the nervous system that would lead them to effective new strategies for protecting and repairing the brain. Given that brain and nerve cells do not have a natural mechanism for regenerating themselves, their mission seemed like mission impossible. Yet with every new discovery, the researchers came closer and closer to achieving their goals.

The Brain Repair Centre moved another giant step closer to achieving its goal of becoming a tangible ‘bricks and mortar’ research centre in 2004, when Dalhousie provided a piece of land on the corner of Summer and College streets for a new research facility to be called the Life Sciences Research Institute (LSRI).

The LSRI was conceived and developed by the former Life Sciences Development Association, a group of key university, business and government organizations interested in developing Atlantic Canada’s emerging life sciences sector. Capital Health, Dalhousie University and the IWK Health Centre assumed responsibility for the project in 2004 and began fundraising efforts. Architectural plans were completed in 2005 for a five-story complex that would provide biomedical laboratories for elite scientists as well as facilities to ready discoveries for commercial development.

Because of its size, prominence and need of more cohesive and advanced facilities, the Brain Repair Centre won the bid to become the LSRI’s anchor tenant. A home in the new facility would enable more of neuroscience researchers to work more closely together in adjacent spaces, with easy access to core facilities equipped with the latest scientific instruments. Dr. Rob Brownstone (Neurosurgery) spearheaded a successful application to the Canada Foundation for Innovation, which secured $14 million in funding for this powerful and highly specialized equipment.

The Brain Repair Centre’s role in the project helped boost fundraising for the LSRI. Dalhousie Medical Research Foundation came forward immediately with $2 million in cornerstone funding, followed by private, corporate and government contributions, including key federal infrastructure funding approved in the 2007 budget. The sod was turned later the same year and in 2011 the new state-of-the-art facility opened its doors. For more about the Life Sciences Research Institute today, click here.

Now in its new home, the Brain Repair Centre has embarked on a process to re-define its mission and develop new programs for supporting the neuroscience enterprise at Dalhousie University, Capital Health and the IWK Health Centre. For more on our programs, click here.

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