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Randy McIntosh, Director, Rotman Research Institute at Baycrest

Randy McIntosh,
Director, Rotman Research Institute at Baycrest

By Randy McIntosh

In just over 15 years, Canadians living with dementia will increase by 87 per cent, and in the next two decades, the number of seniors is expected to double to over 10 million in the country alone. These staggering reports represent only two of many reasons research on brain health and aging is imperative. It’s time to face reality.

That’s where the Canadian Centre for Aging and Brain Health Innovation (CC-ABHI) comes in. The $123.5-million initiative, backed by industry leaders, philanthropy and government, is a significant opportunity for Baycrest to apply its knowledge on brain health, aging and senior care, and get it out into the community where it can make a real difference.

Already, CC-ABHI is paving the way for new research in brain health and senior care services with the launch of interactive innovations. These include the Cogniciti online brain health assessment tool that provides users with a brain health score and a personalized plan for next steps, the Virtual Brain that can be used to test experimental therapies for individual patients, and the eye-tracking cognitive assessment software that can detect memory problems ahead of time.

Joe Oliver (left), Federal Finance Minister; Reza Moridi (second from left), Ontario Minister of Research and Innovation; and Randy McIntosh (right), Director, Rotman Research Institute, Baycrest, talk about the Virtual Brain project, an innovation that will enable physicians to test cognitive interventions virtually before applying them to a patient

Joe Oliver (left), Federal Finance Minister, Canada; Reza Moridi (second from left), Ontario Minister of Research and Innovation; and Randy McIntosh (right), Director, Rotman Research Institute, Baycrest, talk about the Virtual Brain project, an innovation that will enable physicians to test cognitive interventions virtually before applying them to a patient

Innovation is foundational when it comes to implementing the right solutions for our future. That’s why partnering with one of the key pioneers of technology made perfect sense to complete the puzzle and make a profound difference on a national and global scale. Working with IBM will enable direct access to state-of-the-art technology, leverage big data and analytics software within the Centre’s projects, and allow for even greater opportunities to accelerate solutions in the healthcare system, and ultimately the economy.

Data is quickly becoming an organization’s newest and most valuable natural resource. It is a growing tool that opens up our minds to creative insight. In the healthcare field, big data analytics can help dramatically cut research time and provide insights – like discovering obscure correlations or disparities – much more quickly to help improve patient outcomes.

Exciting things are heading our way, and important collaboration is also among public sectors to advance our research in healthcare. Governments of Canada and Ontario acknowledged the very real concerns of brain health and aging when Federal Finance Minister Joe Oliver, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, and Ontario’s Minister of Research and Innovation Reza Moridi, came together recently to announce the federal and provincial budget commitments of $42-million, $23.5-million, and IBM’s in-kind contribution of up to $5 million, respectively.

This type of public-private sector collaboration is one that we see as essential in driving continuous progress to address the growing burden of brain disorders on our loved ones and on society as a whole.

Our hope is that collectively, we can ensure positive growth and a better quality of life for everyone.

More Important Facts:

•    By 2031, more than 23% of Canadians will be aged 65 years and older
•    Dementia is the leading cause of disability among Canadian seniors
•    Dementia costs the national economy $33 billion per year.
•    The global market for brain health applications, software and biometrics will grow from
$1 billion to $10 billion by 2020
•    92% of ‘worried well’ consumers over 50 rated ‘staying mentally sharp’ as their top interest

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