Brock Carleton, Nicole Fortin, and Lloyd Cowin speaking with Parkinson Canada CEO, Dr. Karen Lee, about their experiences engaging in research at The Ottawa Hospital Parkinson’s Update 2023: Moving Forward Together! event.

Local Research Day Offers Updates on Parkinson’s Therapies, Treatments and the Canadian Research Ecosystem


Last month, Parkinson Canada partnered with The Ottawa Hospital’s Parkinson Research Consortium to host Parkinson’s Update 2023: Moving Forward Together! The event brought together researchers, trainees, donors, and people living with Parkinson’s to hear the latest research updates and developments and celebrate the contributions of local fundraisers, donors, and volunteers from the Ottawa community who make this work possible. Below are some highlights from the day.  

  • Dr. Lorraine Kalia from the University Health Network explained how researchers are leveraging AI to look for opportunities to repurpose drugs. Drug repurposing is when a drug already approved for use in the treatment of other diseases is repurposed to treat an entirely different condition. This approach has many advantages as it can reduce costs and accelerate clinical trial processes getting much-needed treatments into the hands of people with Parkinson’s sooner.  

Using AI, researchers can scan existing Health Canada approved drugs that interact with biological mechanisms associated with Parkinson’s. Once a potential drug is identified researchers can then conduct studies to examine how the drug works in a Parkinson’s disease model. Recently, Dr. Kalia received a Parkinson Canada Pilot Project Grant to support her research in this area. 

  • Dr. Tiago Mestre from The Ottawa Hospital presented on his model of care for Parkinson’s, called iCare-PD. This model supports people living with Parkinson’s in identifying and addressing management goals. A key component of this model is the use of technology to support self-management. Parkinson Canada recently awarded $300,000 over three years to the research team to enhance the digital health app affiliated with the model of care. For more details about the app, you can see our explanation post and video 
  • Dr. Ron Postuma at McGill University is an expert on an early, non-motor symptom of Parkinson’s called REM-sleep Behaviour Disorder (or RBD for short). This is when an individual acts their dreams sometimes causing them to thrash in bed while they sleep. RBD can be a strong predictor of Parkinson’s and people can develop this symptom 7 years before a diagnosis.  

One of the challenges for drug trials is that if Parkinson’s has progressed too far it is difficult to repair the damage that has already occurred in the brain. Dr. Postuma is working to identify ways to distinguish if a person with RBD will develop Parkinson’s and how that progression can be monitored. By reliably identifying individuals with early-stages of Parkinson’s, we can expand participant pools for clinical trials and better assess disease modifying therapies that target and modify the course of the disease as early as possible.  

  • Brock Carlton and Lloyd Cowin, members of Parkinson Canada’s Patient Advisory Council, as well as, Nicole Fortin, shared their experiences participating in research as individuals living with Parkinson’s and the importance of having patient representation in research. Their reflections highlighted that people affected by Parkinson’s have different reasons for wanting to get involved in research, but ultimately their hope is  to help make a difference and getting us closer to a cure. During the discussion, Brock talked about how knowledge from research informs how he manages his disease. For example, he uses learnings from research to inform his exercise routine to maximize its impact against his symptoms. 

In addition to these informative research updates. Parkinson Canada’s Vice President of Research, Angelica Asis, spoke with Dr. Maxime Rousseaux and PhD candidate Haley Geertsma from the University of Ottawa on the importance of funding Parkinson’s research trainees. Dr. Rousseaux received Parkinson Canada’s New Investigator Award when he first became a professor. This funding was instrumental to getting his lab off the ground and establishing Dr. Rousseaux in the Parkinson’s field. Today Dr. Rousseaux continues to be engaged with the Parkinson’s community in Ottawa and is now part of Parkinson Canada’s Trainee Awards Review Committee which supports trainees to help them on a path to success like Dr. Rousseaux. Fostering the next generation of Canadian Parkinson’s researchers and clinicians is a critical component of Parkinson Canada’s ongoing research strategy. We are working to strengthen the research ecosystem in Canada to ensure the best treatments and care for all Canadians living with Parkinson’s.  

The Ottawa Hospital event was an opportunity for local researchers and people with Parkinson’s to connect and learn from each other. Parkinson Canada is proud to be part of this effort and in future hopes to replicate these community engagement events across Canada in addition to the ongoing sharing of key research updates with the community. Stay up to date with the latest information from Parkinson’s events by subscribing to our blog on our website:  

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