How Brain-CODE — Ontario’s Brain Disease Database — will help conquer and control brain disease & disorders

Donald Stuss PhDby Donald Stuss PhD, Pres and Scientific Director, Ontario Brain Institute


We know that the cost of brain diseases and disorders is almost beyond comprehension – estimated in Ontario alone at over $39 billion annually. 

By 2020, there will be over 1 billion people over the age 65 globally. Global healthcare costs related to the treatment of brain disorders is expected to reach $2 trillion.

We know that Canada is among the top five countries in the world in neuroscience research and Ontario is the leader in Canada.

We know that there are over 800 Ontario researchers/clinicians who call themselves neuroscientists and many of these are internationally renowned.

As a virtual research centre, OBI connects Ontario’s academic sites, 12 leading brain research centres, researchers and clinicians with businesses who know how to commercialize good ideas.

We also know that the response to conquer and control brain diseases and disorders has not been proportional to our potential.


There are certain steps that are required to achieve Ontario’s full potential of turning knowledge into improved health care including the prevention, early diagnosis and treatment of brain-related disorders.

First, we need to study many patients with a diversity of backgrounds.  Second, our diagnostic approaches (clinical assessments, imaging examinations, etc.) must be standardized, so that we can compare data across institutions and patients.  Third, there is a need to combine multiple types of data, since the determinants of health (or disease) can be the result of many factors, like genetics and environment, which may interact with each other.

The Ontario Brain Institute (OBI) was founded in 2010 by the province of Ontario to create an independent, not-for-profit virtual centre of neuroscience that would catalyze and maximize Ontario’s current excellence.

The OBI has responded to the gap between “what we know” and “what we do” in several ways. One is the development of an extensive brain research database called Brain-CODE (Centre for Ontario Data Exploration). Brain-CODE builds on existing informatics infrastructure and expertise, leveraging nearly 75 million dollars rather than creating a complex database from scratch.


This approach will change the playing field for Ontario’s brain researchers and clinicians, and drug and device companies.  Let me give just two examples.

Research Breakthroughs Relevant to Health

The following quote by Dr. Muhammad Mamdani, Director for the Applied Health Research Centre at the Li Ka-Shing Knowledge Institute of St. Michael’s Hospital and one of the collaborating groups developing Brain-CODE, captures the potential.

“The ability to seamlessly integrate data from a variety of sources such as clinical, genomics, and imaging databases is unprecedented in Ontario.  Brain-CODE will provide researchers with the ability not only to quickly and efficiently access data in ways that will rapidly advance new discoveries to improve patient care, but it will provide a new resource for innovative collaborations.” 

New Commercial Development

The global market for brain diagnostic tools and therapies (e.g., new drugs to combat disorders) is estimated at $130 billion per year – and growing!  Brain-CODE makes Ontario attractive to neuroscience companies, facilitating the interaction among Ontario researchers and pharmaceutical companies.  If diagnosis is more precise, clinical trials of new treatments can be specifically targeted. 


The Ontario Brain Institute’s role of facilitating collaboration between patients and their families, scientists, clinicians, institutions, and neuroscience companies will create one of the world’s largest and most comprehensive brain research databases. 

Brain-CODE opens the door for real discovery and change.

Twitter: @OntarioBrain

Categories: Health Technology Tags: , , , , ,

The opinions posted in this blog are not those of the Ontario government nor its staff, but those of the guest blogger.

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