News

NMD4C and MDC Launch Postdoctoral Fellowship Funding Competition

NMD4C and MDC Launch Postdoctoral Fellowship Funding Competition

Together, Muscular Dystrophy Canada and the Neuromuscular Disease Network for Canada are excited to announce the launch of a funding competition to award two postdoctoral fellowships in neuromuscular disease (NMD) research!

The fellowship provides salary support for early-career scientists to conduct postdoctoral studies in a laboratory focused on research of NMDs, with successful applicants being eligible to receive up to $40 000 in funding over a one-year period. The fellowship will allow early-career scientists to pursue NMD-related research that will impact the understanding the biological causes and/or new clinical treatment of NMDs while also supporting the recipients to pursue future independent research careers in the field of NMDs.

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Notice of 2021 Annual General Meeting of Members

Notice of 2021 Annual General Meeting of Members

NOTICE IS HEREBY GIVEN that the Annual General Meeting of the Members of Muscular Dystrophy Canada will be held via Zoom.

on Friday, September 24, 2021 at 2:15pm Eastern Standard Time for the following purposes:

  1. Receiving the following reports:
    • Chair of the Board and the CEO;
    • Treasurer; and
    • Independent Auditor, together with the audited financial statements for the year ended March 31, 2021.
  2. Electing the Board of Directors
  3. Appointing the Auditors
  4. Other business as may properly be brought before the meeting.

Members of the public are welcome to attend the meeting. If you would like to attend, please contact Benjamin Dixon at benjamin.dixon@muscle.ca or 800-567-2873 to obtain the videoconference details.


Dave Ferguson
Secretary of the Board of Directors
Cowichan Bay, BC

National collaboration awards funding for newborn screening in spinal muscular atrophy (SMA)

  • SMA is the leading cause of genetic infant death.
  • Early diagnosis is imperative to halt irreversible motor neuron loss and disease progression.
  • More than $700,000 awarded to projects across three provinces.

 

Toronto, ON, July 21, 2021 – Muscular Dystrophy Canada (MDC) today announced funding for newborn screening projects focused on spinal muscular atrophy from Alberta, Manitoba and Quebec. These are the first applicants to be awarded funds as part of a collaboration with Novartis Pharmaceuticals Canada Inc. (Novartis). This multi-year initiative will see up to $2 million invested, as well as ongoing support for the generation of critical evidence and best-practices to help make newborn screening for SMA a national reality.

“In a neuromuscular disorder like SMA, where time is of the essence, early diagnosis and prompt access to treatments are critical to achieving the best possible outcomes. Unfortunately, this is not the reality for most Canadian children born with SMA,” said Stacey Lintern, CEO, Muscular Dystrophy Canada. “With today’s announcement and the unparalleled commitment of government leaders, Novartis, the SMA community and MDC’s dedicated Board of Directors, Fire Fighters, clients, donors and supporters, we are one step closer to ensuring all Canadian newborns are screened for SMA.”

Newborn screening is a test done for babies shortly after birth to look for treatable diseases that usually show no symptoms in the newborn period. While Ontario is currently the only province to screen for SMA, MDC’s goal is to have the disorder added to all provincial newborn screening panels across Canada.

“As the mother of an infant with SMA who was not screened at birth, I know first-hand the devastating implications of delayed diagnosis,” said Laura Van Doormaal, Newborn Screening Advisory Committee member. “Today’s announcement means that one day soon, no matter where they live all families will have the opportunity to make critical healthcare decisions and realize their child’s full developmental potential from the very beginning.”

In order to ensure an evidence-based approach to funding, MDC and Novartis commissioned a readiness assessment to evaluate the feasibility of adding SMA to all provincial and territorial screening panels. Proposals were then evaluated by an independent international peer review committee under MDC’s guidance. Funded projects include pilot programs and the mapping of post-diagnosis referral pathways. Further details on the needs and readiness assessment, project selection, peer review and community advisory committees can be found here: muscle.ca/newborn-screening

“Our collaboration with Muscular Dystrophy Canada truly exemplifies the Novartis purpose of improving and extending patients’ lives,” said Andrea Marazzi Country Head, Novartis Pharmaceuticals Canada. “We’re honoured to partner on work that will bring lasting impact to the SMA community and healthcare systems across Canada. Time to diagnosis is crucial in SMA and we applaud the first round of funding recipients and all engaged provinces for their commitment to prioritize screening at birth.”

MDC will continue to work with British Columbia, Saskatchewan and the Maritimes to accelerate newborn screening for SMA coast-to-coast. Future phases of the national collaboration will include additional project funding, evaluation of projects and knowledge transfer, and exchange with stakeholders to ensure policy adoption across all provinces and territories.

About Muscular Dystrophy Canada

Muscular Dystrophy Canada’s mission is to enhance the lives of those affected with neuromuscular disorders by continually working to provide ongoing support and resources while relentlessly searching for a cure through well-funded research. To learn more about Muscular Dystrophy Canada, please explore our website or call our toll-free number at 1-800-567-2873.

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For more information:

Heather Rice
heather.rice@muscle.ca
902-440-3714

Call for Project Proposals: Newborn Screening for Spinal Muscular Atrophy in Canada

Today, we are excited to be launching Phase 2 of our work with a call for funding proposals for local NBS for SMA initiatives. It is anticipated that these projects will focus on the setting up of laboratories for testing and/or ensuring efficient uptake of the policy itself. An independent selection committee will review applications in the coming weeks and we expect to announce the first round of funding at the end of June.

 

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Progress on national newborn screening for SMA

To our community,

For many neuromuscular disorders, early diagnosis and prompt access to treatments are integral to achieving positive outcomes. Unfortunately, this is not the reality for most Canadian children born with spinal muscular atrophy (SMA). When time equals neurons, diagnosis at birth is vital. Newborn screening (NBS) gives families the opportunity to make important healthcare decisions from the very beginning and gives every child a chance to realize their developmental potential.

Screening for SMA can detect approximately 97% of cases. Yet Ontario is currently the only province with SMA on their screening panel.

In December 2020, we embarked on a multi-year collaboration with Novartis Pharmaceuticals Canada Inc. to make NBS for SMA a national reality. We recently completed Phase 1 of the project, which assessed the feasibility of including SMA into existing NBS programs and created a readiness assessment plan for implementing a standardized SMA screening program in Canada. Provincial readiness was assessed on the following key factors:

  • Existing infrastructure to conduct specialized screening
  • Accessible treatment
  • Favourable environment to add SMA to NBS panel
  • High readiness among clinical stakeholders to support SMA NBS program
  • Existing infrastructure in-province to confirm diagnosis of SMA through genetic testing
  • Low cost for adding SMA to the NBS

Despite immediate challenges, the assessment highlighted a strong consensus on the value of implementing SMA in NBS programs across Canada and a shared understanding of the urgency.

Today, we are excited to be launching Phase 2 of our work with a call for funding proposals for local NBS for SMA initiatives. It is anticipated that these projects will focus on the setting up of laboratories for testing and/or ensuring efficient uptake of the policy itself. An independent selection committee will review applications in the coming weeks and we expect to announce the first round of funding at the end of June.

We look forward to receiving proposals from medical and laboratory experts across the country. But our work will not stop there. We will continue to engage with policy and decision makers in all jurisdictions to secure NBS for SMA for every newborn.

With support from the SMA community from coast to coast, we are standing up for Canadian babies. Join us in the call to #screenforsma.

Stacey Lintern
Chief Executive Officer

MDC funds seven new projects to propel research forward during challenging times

Toronto, Ontario – Muscular Dystrophy Canada (MDC) is proud to announce an investment of $400,000 to fund seven new research projects in 2021 through the MDC Neuromuscular Disorder (NMD) Research Grant Competition, a dedicated Canadian source of funding for neuromuscular research. MDC will also invest in an international, collaborative, $1.15 million, research project through the European Joint Programme on Rare Diseases (EJP RD).

“Despite an unprecedented time, during which many like-minded organizations and agencies are not in a position to offer research funds in Canada, MDC is able to demonstrate its ongoing commitment to discovering cures,” stated Stacey Lintern, CEO, Muscular Dystrophy Canada. She added, “while others redirected their research funds towards the coronavirus, and this was much-needed, MDC recognized the need to maintain momentum, and ensure the incredible advances currently taking place in research are accelerated.”

In addition to the seven new projects being funded, MDC will continue its support of 12 active research studies from the previous year.

“MDC grant recipients are selected by medical and scientific professionals, as well as Canadians with lived experience. Research proposals are judged based on scientific merit, and the potential to translate findings into initiatives that will positively impact the NMD community,” said Dr. Daria Wojtal, Director of Research, Muscular Dystrophy Canada.

MDC relies on the generosity of donors to fund life-changing research.

Dr. Rashmi Kothary, Deputy Scientific Director and Senior Scientist at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute and 2019-2020 MDC research grant recipient, said “to the families and donors, I would have to say a huge thank you. From my first day as a researcher, getting my first grant from MDC, you were there. Thank you for sticking by the research community for many, many years. Hopefully we can pay back the trust that you put in us.”

MDC is honoured to fund the exceptional and bright researchers, clinicians and academics who will lead these seven new projects taking place in hospitals and universities across Canada, and around the world.

The 2020-2021 research grant recipients are:

  • Dr. Alex Parker
    A Pharmacogenetic Pipeline for Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease
  • Dr. Colin Crist
    Promoting Muscle Repair by Pharmacological Inhibition of eIF2a Dephosphorylation
  • Dr. Mohamed Chahine
    Human iPSC-derived Neurons as a Model of Congenital Myotonic Dystrophy Type 1
  • Dr. Nadine Wiper-Bergeron
    Improving Myoblast Transplantation Outcomes via Pharmacological Reprogramming
  • Dr. Nicolas Dumont
    Targeting Defective Stem Cells in a Preclinical Model of Myotonic Dystrophy Type 1
  • Dr. Rima Al-Awar (EJPRD/CIHR Co-funded)
    Safety and Efficacy of a Possible Epigenetic Therapy for Facioscapulohumeral Muscular Dystrophy
  • Dr. Toshifumi Yokota
    Enhancing the Efficacy of Antisense Oligonucleotide Therapy for Facioscapulohumeral Muscular Dystrophy

“Congratulations to the 2020-2021 grant recipients. MDC is committed to supporting opportunities that fulfill our commitment to invest in research that leads to information on diagnosis, treatment and health management of neuromuscular disorders; and, we’re confident that the research funded this year will bring us closer to cures for all children, youth, adults and families affected by neuromuscular disorders,” added Lintern.

DISCOVER THE PROJECTS WE SUPPORT

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ABOUT MUSCULAR DYSTROPHY CANADA

Muscular Dystrophy Canada’s mission is to enhance the lives of those impacted with neuromuscular disorders by continually working to provide ongoing support and resources while relentlessly searching for a cure through well-funded research. To learn more about Muscular Dystrophy Canada, please explore our website or call our toll-free number at 1-800-567-2873

MEDIA CONTACT

Heather Rice
Muscular Dystrophy Canada
heather.rice@muscle.ca
902-440-3714

Reduce the timing between doses for patients with neuromuscular diseases

Jurisdictions across the country have been following National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) recommendation to put off second doses and prolong the time between the first and second doses of two-shot COVID-19 vaccines to up to four months. However, persons with neuromuscular disorders may have respiratory involvement, require immunotherapy and are particularly vulnerable to severe and life-threatening effects from contracting COVID-19 infection. Partial protection for some of the most vulnerable and high-risk patients in the country from this devastating disease is not acceptable, particularly as the virus and variants surge across the country. Together with neurologists, the Neuromuscular Disease Network for Canada, Jesse’s Journey and GBS-CIDP Canada, MDC submitted a letter to Health Minister Patty Hajdu, Dr. Quach-Thanh, Chair of NACI and each provincial health minister urging them to further nuance the list of those who should be prioritized for their second dose by including adults affected by neuromuscular disease.

If need any support accessing your first and/or second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, please feel free to contact advocacy@muscle.ca.

Open letter to Health Minister Patty Hadju
Open letter to NACI

MDC Change Agents 

As we celebrate National Volunteer Week, we are happy to share that the following members for MDC’s Advocacy Advisory Committee have been selected:

Catherine Boivin
Quebec
Profession: Digital Technologies Specialist and Consultant
Connection to MDC: Adult affected by a NMD

Alfred Breton-Pare
Quebec
Profession: Senior CRA; Project Manager; Clinical Research Manager
Connection to MDC: Parent of a child affected by a NMD, MDC Board Member

Emily Hong-Wing Chan, BSc (Hons), MSW (Cand.)
Ontario
Profession: Social Worker
Connection to MDC: Adult affected by a NMD

Dr. Sue Dojeiji MD, Med, FRCPC
Ontario
Profession: Physiatrist-in-Chief, Clinical educator; Neuromuscular Researcher
Connection to MDC: NMD Clinician-Scientist

Susan Jahnke
British Columbia
Profession: Business Owner & Website Manager
Connection to MDC: Adult affected by a NMD

Corrine Kagan, BA (Hons)
Ontario
Profession: Past Senior Program Director (ABI)
Connection to MDC: Adult affected by a NMD

Dr. Colin Kovacs, MD, Med, FRCPC
Ontario
Profession: Family Medicine/HIV Primary Care Physician; Assistant Professor in Internal Medicine at U of T
Connection to MDC: Adult affected by a NMD, Member of NMD4C

Ken Kramer, Q.C.
British Columbia
Profession: Principal & Senior Associate Counsel at KMK Law
Connection to MDC: Adult affected by a NMD

Louis Joseph Lauziere
Ontario
Profession: Past Senior Policy Advisor in Dept of Justice at Gov of Saskatchewan
Connection to MDC: Adult affected by a NMD

Michael Low, JD
Alberta
Profession: Litigation Associate at Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP
Connection to MDC: Parent of a child affected by a NMD

Stefanie Marinich-Lee, LLB.
Ontario
Profession: Lawyer, Corporate HR
Connection to MDC: Adult affected by a NMD

Erin Novakowski
Alberta
Profession: Undergraduate student at U of Alberta; Disability Social Media manager; Writer and Contributor for Accessible Housing Canada
Connection to MDC: Adult affected by a NMD

Thu Parmar, B.Sc. Pharm
Alberta
Profession: Clinical Pharmacist; Managed public drug programs at Alberta MoH; Senior Manager of Government Relations & Public Policy at Hoffmann-La Roche Limited (Roche Canada)
Connection to MDC: NMD Industry Partner

Jalee Pelissier
Ontario
Profession: PT/OT Aide
Connection to MDC: Adult affected by a NMD

Kara Reid, BSc OT
New Brunswick
Profession: Occupational Therapist
Connection to MDC: Member of Neuromuscular Clinic, MDC Board Member

Dr. Kerri Schellenberg  MD, MMedEd, FRCPC, CSCN (EMG)
Saskatchewan
Profession: Neurologist and Medical Director ALS Clinic; Neuromuscular researcher.
Connection to MDC: NMD Clinician-Scientist

Erica Vella, BA
Ontario
Profession: Digital Broadcast Journalist with Global News Toronto
Connection to MDC: Family member of an adult affected by NMD

Fatima Vido-Vecchio, B.Sc. PT
British Columbia
Profession: Physiotherapist
Connection to MDC: Member of Neuromuscular Clinic

Elaine Whitmore
Ontario
Profession: Past CEO of John McGivney Children’s Centre
Connection to MDC: Friend of persons affected by NMD; Advocate

We are thankful to all who applied and applaud our new members for coming forward to help us work together towards inclusive policies that reflects and respects Canada’s diversity, values the neuromuscular experience and are accessibility-focused.

We look forward to influencing positive change together! If you have any questions about advocacy, please email advocacy@muscle.ca

Researchers from across Canada join The Tenaquip Foundation’s Walk4MD to raise awareness and funding for neuromuscular disorder community

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE April 15, 2021

Toronto, Ontario – For the second year in a row, Muscular Dystrophy Canada (MDC) is bringing the neuromuscular disorder (NMD) community together virtually for its annual Walk4MD, which raises much needed funds to support Canadians affected – and this year researchers are joining the Walk4MD family.

On June 19 at 3 p.m. EST, thousands of Canadians including six prominent NMD researchers across the country will come together, virtually, to participate in The Tenaquip Foundation’s Walk for Muscular Dystrophy (Walk4MD).

Dr. Reshma Amin from the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto is excited to be one of the Walk4MD Research Champions. “I look after so many amazing children with neuromuscular disease and their families. They deserve to be celebrated and what better way to do so than in partnership with MDC through the Walk4MD.”

“Important advancements are taking place in research right now, and we want to ensure that these advancements continue, and result in better treatments and ultimately a cure for neuromuscular disorders. We feel very fortunate to have the support of Dr. Reshma Amin, MD; Dr. Bernard Brais, MD, PhD; Dr. Nicolas Chrestian, MD; Dr. Robin Parks PhD; Dr. Gerald Pfeffer, MD, PhD; and Dr. Martine Tetreault, PhD and look forward to our NMD community getting to know these incredible individuals better,” said Stacey Lintern, CEO, Muscular Dystrophy Canada.

She added, “I’m also pleased to share that The Tenaquip Foundation is joining us again as title sponsor, and Global has returned as media sponsor for the second year in a row. Like us, they are committed to raising awareness and funds for the Canadian NMD community.”

The Tenaquip Foundation’s Walk4MD is a signature fundraising event for MDC that raises critical funds to support Canadians impacted by neuromuscular disorders. This year, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the funds raised are more important than ever.

“There is still urgency to raise funds to meet the increased needs of our clients during this time,” says Lintern. “Like last year, we’ve had to cancel the majority of our fundraising events for the safety and well-being of our team and the NMD community. That unfortunately, has resulted in a 60 per cent decrease in revenue in our first quarter last year.”

The goal of The Tenaquip Foundation’s Walk4MD this year is to raise $870,000. These funds will be invested in services and programs, like equipment, and ensure MDC can meet the unique needs of the neuromuscular community while continuing to invest in research for better health outcomes for individuals impacted by neuromuscular disorders.

To learn more about The Tenaquip Foundation’s Walk4MD or to register for this exciting event, please visit walk4MD.ca

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ABOUT MUSCULAR DYSTROPHY CANADA

Muscular Dystrophy Canada’s mission is to enhance the lives of those impacted with neuromuscular disorders by continually working to provide ongoing support and resources while relentlessly searching for a cure through well-funded research. To learn more about Muscular Dystrophy Canada, please visit muscle.ca or call our toll-free number at 1-800-567-2873.

MEDIA CONTACT

Heather Rice
Muscular Dystrophy Canada
Heather.Rice@muscle.ca
902-440-3714

MDC’s Response to the CADTH and INESSS Recommendations for Onasemnogene abeparvovec: A Call for Newborn Screening

At the end of 2020, Health Canada approved Onasemnogene abeparvovec (Zolgensma®) for the treatment of pediatric patients with 5q Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) with biallelic mutations in the SMN1 gene and three or fewer copies of SMN2 gene, or infantile-onset SMA, bringing renewed hope to Canadian families affected by SMA. Onasemnogene abeparvovec is the second treatment approved by Health Canada for SMA and the first gene therapy for SMA. The broad indication as part of Health Canada approval was followed up with recommendations from the Institut national d’excellence en santé et en services sociaux (INESSS) and most recently, the Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health (CADTH) Canadian Drug Expert Committees. The recommendations were formulated following a comprehensive evidence-based review of the medication's efficacy or effectiveness and safety and an assessment of its cost-effectiveness. The CADTH recommendations note that Onasemnogene abeparvovec should be for patients who are: symptomatic or pre-symptomatic with one to three copies of the survival motor neuron gene; 6 months of age or younger; not currently requiring permanent feeding or ventilatory support (either invasive or non-invasive).

Based on the patient input we put forward to CADTH and INESSS, we know SMA contributes to a loss of independence, increased load on families, difficulty breathing, swallowing and loss of mobility and can have a negative impact on mental and emotional well-being. Since Health Canada’s approval of treatments for SMA, families have been anxiously approaching age limitations and tirelessly advocating for access. While we commend INESSS and CADTH for their thorough class reviews, we are disappointed to see Onasemnogene abeparvovec is not recommended for those over the age of 6 months and a case-by-case review mechanism has not been suggested by CADTH. This emphasizes the need for a comprehensive Rare Disease Strategy and a process/mechanism to address the evidence gap for older infants and children. We thank the clinical experts for contributing to the reviews and we are in full agreement with the clinical experts that “earliest possible initiation of therapy” is important when it comes to SMA because it is associated with irreversible loss of motor neurons and motor nerves. This means in order to best benefit from the treatments currently approved and available in Canada, a diagnosis should be available as early as possible. Thankfully, this is the case in Ontario – newborn screening for SMA is part of the infant screening panel at birth since 2020. However, for anyone outside of Ontario, a diagnosis prior to 6 months of age is not always achieved. The recent INESSS and CADTH recommendations highlight the critical need for newborn screening, especially in the presence of approved treatments, and strongly provides support for MDC’s current initiative to implement nation-wide newborn screening for SMA.

We acknowledge that the recent approval of another treatment for SMA and related drug review recommendations has taken us another significant step towards early diagnosis and treatment choice. MDC is committed to continually work with individuals affected by SMA and their families on an individualized basis to provide holistic supports, resources for making evidence-informed choices and supporting individual advocacy activities.

We are looking forward to continued research and developments that can demonstrate the meaningful benefits of early diagnosis and early access to treatments for health outcomes and health-related quality of life for Canadians affected by SMA.

Sincerely,
Stacey Lintern
Chief Executive Officer
Muscular Dystrophy Canada



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