Ontario Neurodegenerative Disease Research Initiative (ONDRI)


The Ontario Neurodegenerative Disease Research Initiative (ONDRI) is a research program designed to investigate similarities and differences of dementia among five diseases that will improve the diagnosis and treatment of neurodegeneration. To date, ONDRI has focused on the following five diseases that are associated with dementia: Alzheimer’s disease/mild cognitive impairment, Parkinson’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease), frontotemporal lobar degeneration, and vascular cognitive impairment (resulting from stroke).

ONDRI is a provincial collaboration between more than 80 of Ontario’s world-class neurodegenerative disease researchers and clinicians, four patient advocacy groups, the industrial sector, and more than 15 clinical, academic and research centres carried out in partnership with the Ontario Brain Institute.

Instead of only studying what’s unique, our long-term observational study is seeking out the common early indicators and risk factors of the five diseases.

Our mandate is to ensure that the findings from the data collected are transformed into new diagnostic methods that will help detect diseases earlier, improved clinical practice that puts patients first, and eventually new effective treatments that will slow the diseases from progressing or even prevent the disease so people can continue to enjoy the later years of their lives.

More than 600 participants will be followed for up to three years and will complete assessments for genomics, gait and balance, eye measurements, neuropsychology, and neuroimaging and will donate their data to a comprehensive integrated data management system called Brain-CODE.


ONDRI (2013 - 2018)

2013 – 2018

In the first phase of ONDRI (1.0) we developed a pan-Ontario research consortium that, for the first time, integrated a wide range of experimental, clinical, imaging and epidemiological expertise to specifically address the phenotypic sequelae of degenerative cognitive impairment in the aging population. Our secondary objective was to understand the contribution of small vessel disease changes to disease presentation/cognition in aging and neurodegenerative diseases.

Our exceedingly rich program of integrated data, including clinical, biological (neuroimaging, genomics, eye-tracking, retinal optical coherence tomography), cognitive (neuropsychological), and functional (gait and balance, quality of life, activities of daily living) measures are being applied across five diseases (AD, ALS, FTD, PD, VCI), and over time to develop a unique, cross-neurodegenerative disease longitudinal cohort. We also banked valuable biological samples (serum, plasma, DNA) from this cohort for future use.

The renewal phase (ONDRI 2.0) will extend this work to complete AIM 1 and add new foci (AIMS 2-4) working toward our ultimate goal of advancing care and improving outcomes.

ONDRI (2018 - 2023)

2018 – 2023

The renewal phase (ONDRI 2.0) will extend this work to complete AIM 1 and add new foci (AIMS 2-4) working toward our
ultimate goal of advancing care and improving outcomes.

Over the long-term, this Program aims to lay a foundation for innovative interventions targeting multiple approaches to improve the identification of people at risk for disease or decline, to facilitate pragmatic interventions and new clinical trials to improve outcomes, and to develop and promote the best care for people living with neurodegeneration and their families.

Importance of our research

The human population is rapidly aging and the cost of caring for dependent elderly will profoundly affect social and healthcare systems. Dementia is the single greatest cause of disability and debilitation in Canada’s senior population. It costs Canadians billions of dollars per year – a figure expected to grow tenfold during the next 20 years including a tenfold increase in demand for long-term care. It’s estimated that more than 100,000 Canadians will develop dementia in the coming year and that more than 500,000 Canadians are currently afflicted. Tools for earlier diagnosis and disease-modifying interventions are needed now to alter these alarming trends.

Early diagnosis can provide valuable time to put in place intervention strategies and treatments that can delay and soften the impact of neurodegenerative disease. ONDRI is looking for earlier predictors.