The first Canada-based recipient of the Brain Prize pledges to help strengthen Toronto as a leading hub for brain research

Dr. Graham Collingridge, chair of the University of Toronto's physiology department and senior investigator at the Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute at Mount Sinai Hospital was named a recipient of the world's richest prize for brain research, the Brain Prize. The honour – which includes a share of $1.5 million CDN – recognizes the work of Dr. Collingridge and his colleagues, Timothy Bliss and Richard Morris, for their research on the cellular and molecular basis of Long Term Potentiation and the demonstration of how it underpins spatial memory and learning.

Toronto, Ontario offers a one-of-a-kind location for performing translational research

Dr. Collingridge settled in Toronto in September 2015, about half a year following a visit he made to the city for a speaking engagement. "Until then, it hadn't really occurred to me what a fantastic concentration of neuroscientists there are both at the University of Toronto and in the associated hospitals," he says. "And that's one of the reasons I was interested in moving here." Another big reason for Dr. Collingridge's decision to locate to Toronto was the ecosystem's unique ability to quickly move scientific breakthroughs from the laboratory to clinic. "My research was at the stage where I was becoming more interested in what might be going wrong with these processes, and that's why I wanted to be in a place where discoveries can be translated into medicines. The great advantage of Toronto, over probably anywhere in the world, is that it has an outstanding university with very close links to so many research institutes and hospitals."

A top-flight university and excellent hospitals and research institutes, all within a few blocks

When asked whether he had more time to talk, Dr. Collingridge replied gleefully. "It's all right; my next meeting is five minutes from my office. That's one of the great things about Toronto, everything is located so close together." And that is something one could not as easily say about other major centres for brain research, including London, New York, Boston and San Francisco. "The geographical advantage leads to greater collaboration," says Dr. Collingridge, "because the closer you are, the more likely you are to meet up with colleagues from different hospitals and research institutes."

Life is good for world-leading scientists living in Toronto

"Number one in the world, according to The Economist," Dr. Collingridge proclaims in response to a question about his adjustment to living in Ontario's capital. "To do great work, one doesn't have to be in a great city, but it definitely helps. The adjustment was easy. It is a very liveable city, and compared with other major financial capitals, it is more affordable. There are many great neighbourhoods close to downtown."

Dr. Collingridge's message to those who haven't considered Ontario

"There is excellent support from the Province of Ontario, in terms of developing opportunities for start-up companies and the commercialization of research. I just need to look out my window to see the MaRS towers, which are fantastic investments." Home to the Ontario Institute of Cancer Research (OICR), Ontario Genomics Institute and Janssen's JLABS, MaRS is attracting businesses eager to take advantage of collaboration opportunities within an innovation ecosystem that is second to none.

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