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Goodbye to Robin Williams

Robin Williams

The news of Robin Williams’ death shocked the world. Williams was an entertainer making us laugh every chance he got, from movies to standup and even dabbling in improvisation on the show, “Whose Line is it Anyways.” As a child I remember hearing his many voices in Aladdin and many faces in Mrs. Doubtfire.

As an adult I will remember being stunned by his death. As more news reports come out about how he died, the stories also shed light on his battle with Parkinson’s. Williams apparently suffered from the early stages of the neurodegenerative disorder, which may have added to his depression.

Michael J. Fox who was diagnosed with the disease in 1991 shared his story of depression when first dealing with the news. "My first reaction to it was to start drinking heavily…Once I did that it was then about a year of like a knife fight in a closet, where I just didn't have my tools to deal with it," Fox said. He also went on to say that Williams supported his foundation for Parkinson’s research. In a tweet he posted after learning about his death, Fox wrote: "Stunned to learn Robin had PD. Pretty sure his support for our Fdn predated his diagnosis. A true friend; I wish him peace."

We have lost a gifted artist that suffered from depression and Parkinson’s. Although he was a true giver and lit up on the screen or performing on stage, he lived alone with these health demons, attacking his mind and his body. While his death will always remain a tragedy it is important to recognize the opportunity to learn about these health issues of depression and Parkinson’s. It is important that we not only educate ourselves but that we also let our loved ones know we are here to help them and that no one should suffer on their own. Knowledge is certainly power and support from friends and family can be just what the doctor ordered.


The Next Big Einstein Contest is Back!

The Next Einstein Contest 2014

The Next Einstein Contest is back again for its second year and already the innovative ideas are streaming in. Just like last year, you have the opportunity to share your great concepts and the possibility to win big.

First place is $10,000 CAD and the chance to utilize Start-up and Entrepreneurial services from leading international business law and litigation firm Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP. Additional prizes include a $5,000 CAD scholarship to Draper University of Heroes, a $5,000 fellowship to the Digital Media Zone (DMZ) at Ryerson University in Toronto, and The Bernard Persiko & Darren Kendal Merit Scholarship valued at up to $15,000 to study at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

There are also weekly prizes to give you that extra push and submit your idea. So what is it? Your idea can be in any field of interest, whether it is scientific, a new app, or maybe a plan to rethink world hunger. We have all been that person watching the news of someone’s great idea and said, “I thought of that too.” So instead of just thinking of it, and then watching someone else make it happen, take this opportunity to put it out there.

The contest ends June 8. For more info check out the official website

Learn more about last year's winner, Charles Rose and his great idea here

Autism Speaks: Autism, So Little Understood

The Levine-Kanji family

I wanted to share this blog post from Ilyse Levine-Kanji that I read this past week. I thought it gave an inside view on life with Autism.

This is a post by Ilyse Levine-Kanji, a former employment discrimination lawyer who now devotes her time to caring for her two sons, Sam (15) and Troy (13).  For more of Ilyse's advocacy work on behalf of people with autism, check out

One of the most frustrating things about autism is that so little is known about the disorder. 

When my son Sam was diagnosed at 26 months in 2000, we were told that a primary hallmark of autism is social disinterest and the desire to be alone.  Sam is now 15 years old.  While his social interactions are often quirky and unexpected (to say the least!), Sam has a deep desire to connect with others.  Sam is always willing to go to the grocery store or run errands with me, primarily because he’s excited to see who we will run into.  People joke that Sam acts like “the mayor,” greeting everyone he sees by name and with an enthusiastic fist bump.  (Again, we were told that people with autism have trouble recognizing others, which also hasn’t been true for Sam.) 

What is accurate is that Sam has tremendous difficulty communicating.  He speaks in full sentences, but it is often a struggle for him to communicate his thoughts.  One way that Sam compensates for this difficulty is by painstakingly planning out what he is going to say to someone before he sees him or her.  Sam has many rehearsed scripts in his head that he pulls out depending on the person.  One of his favorites is telling jokes that might be specific to a certain profession or situation.  For instance, I think each of our town’s police officers now know the answer to Sam’s joke, “Why did the police officer go to the baseball game?”  (Because someone was stealing 2ndbase). 

Sam’s astounding memory helps him remember to whom he has told each specific joke or story so that he doesn’t repeat himself. 

To read more click here.

To learn more about Autism research at IMRIC click here


My Fourth Half Marathon: Lessons from the Race

Jerusalem Marathon

This past Friday I ran my fourth Half Marathon. To play the numbers game, this is after giving birth to my second child and at the age of 30. When I was 20 I started running, but my 20-year-old self would never believe that I could finish (or for that matter start) a Half Marathon.

I am writing this blog post to once again stress that not only can I do it, but anyone can choose a healthy lifestyle and start living that way now. I am always surprised how impressed people are with me for running the race. That’s because I think we are all up for the challenge. I am not saying that everyone can run a Half Marathon. But I tell my friends that they can walk 10 minutes a day, and watch how that can turn into 45 minute strolls in a month. What’s important is to just get yourself out there, instead of doubting yourself and not committing at all.

I will be honest and say that I thought this would be my last Half Marathon. This time around I didn’t enjoy the training as much and my body (after the two kids) just didn’t feel the same. But as I ran kilometer after kilometer (21.2 to be exact), I remembered how much fun a race is. It is incredible to run with thousands of other people and together finish a race, a challenge, a goal that seemed so distant, together.

At the beginning of the race we ran through a tunnel. That’s what’s cool about a Marathon, you run the streets, there are no cars and no traffic lights, or narrow sidewalks to worry about. As we ran through the tunnel, all the runners started to scream. It was awesome. It was freeing. It was loud. I screamed too. My voice blended in with the others and we stepped in stride if only through the darkness for a few hundred meters. And then, as they say, we “saw the light at the end of the tunnel,” and I realized my healthy journey has only yet begun.

Whether or not I run another Half, or 10k, or Full Marathon, or swim, or Zumba, I have made a life choice to be healthy. That is my motivation to get out of bed and workout even on the coldest days, or to encourage my children to do the same. And I hope I can also motivate you to do the same. Challenge yourself with a healthy life choice too.  

If you do start running this is a great app.

vlog #1: Lorna Moll, Post Doctoral Fellow

Blog: Student
Post Doctoral Fellow Lorna Moll

I am very excited to share with you, the behind the scenes of our lab’s recent breakthrough. Together our lab, led by Prof. Ehud Cohen here at IMRIC, and the start-up company TyrNovo discovered a potential treatment of brain diseases. We found that TyrNovo’s unique compound, named NT219, selectively inhibits the process of aging in order to protect the brain from neurodegenerative diseases, like Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s disease, without affecting lifespan.

While this is the first step in what is still a long line of investigations, it is extremely exciting for us. Check out my first vlog explaining the research and what’s to come.


Bio: After I finished my B.Sc. at the University of Cologne, Germany, I joined the lab of Prof. Ludwig Eichinger where I investigated the expression pattern of Dictyostelium discoideum after infection with Mycobacterium marinum via cDNA Microarrays. During my PhD thesis I worked in the lab of Dr. Markus Schubert at the University of Cologne and got interested in the connection between the insulin/IGF1R signalling pathway and neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer´s disease. I analysed the function of the downstream transcription factor FoxO1 of the insulin/IGF-1R signaling cascade in Alzheimer´s disease. For my post-doctoral research in the group of Dr. Ehud Cohen I continue to study the role of DAF-16/FoxO mediated protection against age-associated proteotoxicity in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans.