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Shaping the future: researcher profiles

Dr. Michel Maziade: masterminding NeuroCité
Dr. Michel Maziade began working in the field of neuropsychiatry in 1977 and now heads 55 research teams investigating the workings of the human brain. Not content to rest on his laurels, Dr. Maziade plans to raise nearly $250 million in investments over the next 10 years to create a neuroscience research hub in Quebec City.
  • Professor, Department of Psychiatry, Laval University
  • Chair in Psychiatry and Canada Senior Research Chair in the Genetics of Neuropsychiatric Disorders
  • Scientific director, Laval University/Robert Giffard Research Centre (CRULRG)
  • Research director, Robert Giffard Hospital Centre
  • President, NeuroCité

According to Dr. Maziade, he was destined to become a neuropsychiatrist. When he was hesitating between ophthalmology and psychiatry, his professors encouraged him to explore the latter field, in which important work was yet to be completed.

“Psychiatric and psychological research was just coming into its own. That’s why I became a developer and a researcher at the same time,” he explains.

In the mid-1980s, the neuroscience sector was crying out for personnel. With the help of two colleagues, Dr. Maziade thus decided to launch the Laval University/Robert Giffard Research Centre (CRULRG) as a job creation strategy.

From its modest beginnings, CRULRG has grown dramatically in recent years, with 400 people currently assigned to 55 teams researching neurons and brain functions.

Dr. Maziade also founded Neuropsychiatry, Discover and Innovation Inc. (NDEI) (, which signed an agreement in November 2007 with Genizon BioSciences Inc. aimed at optimizing schizophrenia research.

Another of Dr. Maziade’s initiatives, the Society for the Promotion of Research Applications (SOVAR), has received $3.8 million in Quebec government funding to market technologies developed by research teams in Quebec City.

Building a city

Today, Dr. Maziade is taking on a brand new challenge: the building of NeuroCité in the Estimauville district of Quebec City.

“CRULRG is growing by 20% every year, and brain sciences represent the future of medicine and medical discoveries. It’s crucial that we have the tools we need to pursue our growth strategy. NeuroCité is the obvious solution,” he says.

In Dr. Maziade’s view, a one-of-a-kind model must be created in Quebec City, with the university system and industry, including CRULRG and world-class pharmaceutical companies, working together.

These specialists will join forces to find treatments for various brain diseases, including schizophrenia, depression and epilepsy. Dr. Maziade hopes to use nearly $250 million in investments to create 2,000 jobs.

Quebec City: a key role

According to Dr. Maziade, Quebec City has everything it needs to attract the world’s top researchers. “Nowhere else has a comparable quality of life. And now that we’ve acquired scientific credibility, we must create the right kind of financial conditions to boost recruitment.”

Quebec City is well positioned to play a key role in the neuroscience field over the next few years, thanks in part to the relative youthfulness of local researchers, with an average age of only 38.

When asked about what makes him particularly proud, recruitment is the first thing that Dr. Maziade mentions. “Our researchers haven’t even hit their stride yet. CRULRG is ranked among the top 5 research centres in Canada. With NeuroCité, we’re shooting for the top 5 worldwide.”

Pushing the limits

In addition to his duties as CRULRG’s scientific director, Dr. Maziade conducts his own research on psychiatric genetics. Indeed, he is one of the pioneers in this field in Canada.

Dr. Maziade’s efforts really began to bear fruit in 1990, when he advanced the hypothesis that schizophrenia and bipolar disorder could be caused by common genes. He subsequently devoted his efforts to proving that the psychotic symptoms once attributed exclusively to either disease are in fact shared. To that end, he and his team gathered together a unique group of 2,000 individuals, representing multiple generations of families in which several members were suffering from psychotic disorders.

Today, Dr. Maziade and his team are analyzing the interactions between the genes that cause these diseases. His work has earned him a wide range of distinctions, including the prestigious Established Investigator Award presented by NARSAD, a Chicago-based organization that funds mental health research, in addition to multiple awards from the Canadian Psychiatric Association and the American Psychiatric Association. He has also published innumerable scientific articles.

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