COVF - Canadian Optogenetics and Vectorology Foundry
Optogenetics is a technology that is revolutionizing neuroscience and mental health from basic science to clinical applications. The Canadian Optogenetics and Vectorology Foundry (COVF) is a national facility at the heart of a worldwide effort to accelerate the development, production, dissemination, and use of genetically encoded light-activated tools. In its initial inception, COVF’s operations have been based on a Protein Engineering Core and a Vectorology Core for the design and production. They are couped to eight Testing Nodes* across the country involved in tool characterization and validation.
The main infrastructure is based at the Neurophotonics centre @ CERVO. It builds on numerous funding sources including >100M$ from the Canadian Foundation for Innovation (CFI) and partners, various programs of the Government of Québec, Brain Canada, the Fond de recherche du Québec and more.
See the recent announcement by the Brain Canada foundation on renewed support for this National Resource through its Platform Support Grant program.
The platform’s Biofoundry model responds to tool Design-Build-Test requests, accelerates translation across species, experimental paradigms and disease models, and aims to support porting optogenetics to clinical applications via gene transfer approaches (Shen et al 2020). Services also include counseling and training to democratize optogenetics and viral vector technologies, especially Adeno-Associated Viral Vectors (AAVs) for neuroscience and beyond.
Recent additions to COVF include:
- The Fiber-Optics Design Core at the Centre for Optics, Photonics and Laser (COPL) @Université Laval and supported by the Canada Excellence Research Chair in Photonics Innovation. The Core offers unique expertise on glass materials, surface functionalization and microfabrication technologies to create multimodal micro-probes for light delivery and collection, electrical access, drug delivery, and chemical sensing down to single cells in vivo (LeChasseur et al 2011; Dufour et al 2013; Dufour & De Koninck 2015; Rioux et al 2017; Gagnon-Turcotte et al 2017).
- The Canadian Centre of Excellence in Focused Ultrasound at the Sunnybrook Research Institute. Focused Ultrasound (FUS) technology overcomes poor brain penetration of intravenous biologics and circumvents the need for multiple intracerebral injection sites and invasive surgery. In combination with intravenous microbubbles, MRI-guided FUS can safely, transiently, and non-invasively increase blood-brain barrier permeability locally to precisely deliver AAVs at targeted brain areas. The group has designed and validated multiple devices compatible with several animal models for delivery across the blood-brain barrier, blood-spinal cord, blood-retinal and blood-labyrinth barriers (e.g., Noroozian et al 2019; Abrahao et al 2019; Dubey et al 2020; Weber-Adrian et al 2021; Xhima et al 2021).
See recent announcement of the Weston Family Focused Ultrasound Initiative at Sunnybrook.
*Testing Nodes at participating Institutes offer expertise for standardized validation of optogenetics and vectorology tools in a wide array of experimental paradigms, species, and disease models.
The COVF Testing Loop Model