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Prominent neurobiologist appointed to direct national research initiative

Samuel Weiss to lead CIHR’s new Institute of Neurosciences, Mental Health and Addiction
May 5, 2017
Since 2004, Samuel Weiss has served as the inaugural director of the Hotchkiss Brain Institute at the University of Calgary. University of Calgary photo

Since 2004, Samuel Weiss has served as the inaugural director of the Hotchkiss Brain Institute at the University of Calgary. University of Calgary photo

Roderick McInnes, acting president of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) announced on May 3 the appointment of Samuel Weiss, PhD, as incoming scientific director of CIHR’s Institute of Neurosciences, Mental Health and Addiction (INMHA). This appointment will be effective July 1, 2017.

“I’m delighted to welcome Sam Weiss to CIHR as the new scientific director of the Institute of Neurosciences, Mental Health and Addiction,” said McInnes. “We are especially lucky to have a researcher as accomplished as Sam join our team at this time, when supporting Canadians living with mental illness, and tackling opioid addiction, are major government priorities.”

Since 2004, Weiss has served as the inaugural director of the Hotchkiss Brain Institute (HBI) at the University of Calgary, where he leads a team of more than 750 members, trainees and staff. He is also a tenured professor in the departments of cell biology and anatomy, and physiology and pharmacology, at the University of Calgary’s Cumming School of Medicine.

Weiss sits on or chairs numerous national and international scientific peer review committees, has authored many publications, holds key patents in the neural stem cell field and has founded three biotechnology companies. He is a member of the board of directors of Brain Canada and a former member of the board of directors of the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research.

“I’m humbled and thrilled to be taking up this exciting opportunity with CIHR and follow in the footsteps of my colleagues Drs. Remi Quirion and Tony Phillips,” says Weiss. “They have done so much to support the impactful research the Canadian neuroscience and mental health communities are doing in vital areas such as dementia, brain injury, autism, addiction and depression. I look forward to doing my own part to advance the Canadian national agenda for neuroscience, mental health and addiction.”

Weiss is well known for his discovery of neural stem cells in the brains of adult mammals in 1992, which suggests that the adult brain can generate new cells. This research has opened the door to potential new treatments for brain diseases and a better understanding of brain cancer.

He will remain on campus as a full member of the HBI, collaborating with members of both the HBI and the Arnie Charbonneau Cancer Institute in the study of adult human brain tumour stem cell biology and experimental therapeutics.

Weiss has had a long association with CIHR, having been awarded a postdoctoral fellowship by CIHR’s predecessor, the Medical Research Council of Canada, in 1983. More recently, he was the co-lead of the Stand Up to Cancer Canada Cancer Stem Cell Dream Team, which received $11.7 million in funding from CIHR and other partners to study the cancer stem cells that drive the growth of tumours.

As the scientific director of CIHR-INMHA, Weiss will work with the Canadian neurosciences, mental health and addiction communities and stakeholders to identify research priorities, develop research funding opportunities, build partnerships and translate research evidence into policy and practice to improve the health of Canadians and people around the world. Finally, as a member of CIHR's leadership team, he will participate in setting and implementing CIHR's strategic directions.

“Sam’s contributions to the University of Calgary’s Eyes High goals have been tremendous,” said Ed McCauley, vice-president (research) at the University of Calgary. “As the inaugural director of the HBI and leader of the university’s Brain and Mental Health research strategy, he has been key in establishing UCalgary as a leader in brain and mental health research and education. We are excited that he has been recognized for his outstanding leadership and will continue to contribute to brain and mental health research on a national scale.”

HBI deputy director Keith Sharkey, PhD, will serve as the HBI’s director (interim) as of July 1, 2017. The HBI will continue to lead the Brain and Mental Health research strategy as a campus-wide priority.

The CIHR is Canada’s health research investment agency. CIHR’s mission is to create new scientific knowledge and to enable its translation into improved health, more effective health services and products, and a strengthened Canadian health-care system. Composed of 13 Institutes, CIHR provides leadership and support to health researchers and trainees across Canada.