Mission and Goals

Established by the Toronto Academic Health Science Network in mid-2009, the Toronto Dementia Research Alliance (TDRA) is a new paradigm for collaborative research working to create an effective platform for consistent collection and interpretation of clinical data across member institutions. It includes an academic coalition of the five memory/dementia clinics affiliated with the University of Toronto, Faculty of Medicine: Baycrest, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, St.Michael’s Hospital, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, and the University Health Network.

TDRA is working towards positioning itself as a Canadian research center of excellence in dementia, co-morbidities and co-occurring contributory underlying disorders. The TDRA focuses on neurodegenerative diseases that result in clinical dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, fronto-temporal degeneration, dementia with Lewy bodies, Parkinson’s disease dementia, and vascular cognitive impairment. Together, TDRA-related clinics see approximately 6,000 patients per year, roughly 2,000 new patients, and 4,000 follow-ups. Efforts are being made to participate in provincial, national and international research collaborations to enable larger scale research capabilities required for studies focusing on the identification and treatment of subjects in the earliest stages of disease.

Mission Statement
Ameliorate suffering from neurodegenerative disorders through understanding mechanisms and finding better targets for disease modification, and earlier means to detect, prevent and treat these diseases.
Goals
Prevention, best care and treatment of dementia across the spectrum of neurodegenerative disorders:

  1. Create and sustain a robust translational research platform to characterize cognitive-behavioural endophenotypes across the major neurodegenerative disorders in correlation with measures of functional dependency, caregiver burden, imaging, genetic, epigenetic and biochemical profiling and pathological verification. Embrace the real-world complexity and heterogeneity of these conditions, and develop new taxonomies that better classify the phenotypic variations.
  2. Understand patterns of progression, and develop a post-mortem program and brain banking system across participating institutions.
  3. Establish appropriate infrastructure to facilitate investigator-initiated clinical trials for rapid proof of concept studies, including pharmacological and non-pharmacological prevention trials.
  4. Build capacity while also  developing a cross-institutional recruitment plan, not only for clinicians and research staff but also to attract world-class scientists/clinician scientists through strategic needs-assessment and training programs for highly qualified personnel.
  5. Foster provincial, national and international collaborations by solidifying and strengthening current teams and building new networks within the Toronto research community in order to develop a comprehensive Center of Excellence in prediction, diagnosis and management of neurocognitive disorders with specific focus on dementia.
  6. Build financial sustainability through successful peer-reviewed grants, clinical trials, and capitalizing on emerging funding opportunities from both public and private sectors, through philanthropy, and when appropriate through commercialization.
  7. Establish infrastructure to support more efficient health care delivery to patients that will ultimately reduce healthcare costs.
Relevance of Future TDRA Research to Patients
TDRA is a unique collaboration that will allow Canadian researchers to address several questions important to persons living with dementia, and to their families: Why is dementia more frequent in some families? What are the roles of gender, the environment and genetic factors in the development of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease? What are the risk factors for developing dementia? Can we control the risk factors and prevent or delay dementia and its related complications? How can we better understand the pathophysiology of dementia manifestations? Can we have more sensitive biomarkers to detect brain abnormalities in earlier and potentially pre-symptomatic stages to enable prevention strategies? These and other questions are on the “to do” list of TDRA investigators. Furthermore, through development of a clinical research database, TDRA can bring to Canadians new experimental treatments developed in other countries, and study their risks and benefits in a Canadian environment.