News Release

Announcing the winners of the Neuro-Irv and Helga Cooper Foundation Open Science Prizes

Grant and Award Announcement

McGill University

Open Science Prizes

image: the Neuro-Irv and Helga Cooper Foundation Open Science Prizes view more 

Credit: The Neuro

A group of exciting projects and talented researchers have been awarded monetary support this year thanks to the Neuro-Irv and Helga Cooper Foundation Open Science Prizes. The prizes recognize projects, services, tools, and platforms that unlock the power of Open Science in neuroscience to advance research, innovation, and collaboration for the benefit of health and society. 

International Prize: “Antibody Characterization through Open Science (YCharOS)”, Peter McPherson, Carl Laflamme, Aled Edwards, Chetan Raina

YCharOS is a collaboration between Peter McPherson’s lab at The Neuro and the Structural Genomics Consortium, itself a public-private partnership based in Europe, the United States and Canada.

Inconsistent antibody performance is a significant challenge for researchers and sits at the heart of the reproducibility crisis observed in biomedical research. To address this unmet need, YCharOS performs head-to-head comparisons of commercially available antibodies to the same target protein and publishes the results for use by scientists around the world.

“The results of this trusted open environment are rigorous antibody characterization data shared without restriction that can guide the research community to select the most appropriate antibodies for their needs,” says McPherson. “We believe our efforts will catalyze discoveries.”

The project has now characterized 349 antibodies for 31 proteins linked to neurological disease. It has identified high-quality antibodies for each protein, which will be used to reveal their disease relevance.

McPherson says they will use the prize money to expand their antibody characterization platform to novel key antibody-based applications needed by the scientific community.

“One important application is immunohistochemistry, which allows one to detect proteins in human tissues. The funds will help us to purchase new reagents and small equipment necessary for the initial optimization of the assay.”

International Trainee Prize: “The mesoSPIM initiative: open-source light-sheet microscopes for imaging cleared tissue”, Fabian F. Voigt

The International Trainee Prize winner, Fabian F. Voigt, is a postdoctoral researcher at Harvard University. He developed an open-source, light-sheet microscope with greater capabilities than commercially available models, called the “mesoSPIM”. Light-sheet microscopes are used to image clear brain samples. This allows researchers to map neurons and their connections in whole mouse brains without having to slice the sample into thin sections. Interested researchers can download all the required parts lists, instructions and software to set up and operate such a microscope via Since 2019, 14 such instruments have become operational across the globe and 16 peer-reviewed publications have been published with mesoSPIM data.

Voigt says he intends to use the funds to attend in-person conferences to spread the word about the project and listen to the needs of current and prospective mesoSPIM users.

“Developing an instrumentation idea into a well-documented reproducible open hardware project is a long and painstaking process that takes many years,” says Voigt. “Along the road, I received quite a few comments doubting that the project would succeed. It feels great to see the effort recognized in this way!”


Canadian Trainee Prize: “The ENIGMA Toolbox: Cross-disorder integration and multiscale neural contextualization of multisite neuroimaging datasets”, Sara Larivière

Sara Larivière, the Canadian Trainee Prize winner, has been awarded for the ENIGMA Toolbox, a centralized, continuously updated repository of hundreds of meta-analytical neuroimaging datasets. ENIGMA includes data from a range of disorders as well as an efficient codebase to visualize, analyze, and relate any neuroimaging findings to multiple scales of brain organization.

The toolbox gives scientists the means and knowledge to explore molecular, histological, and network correlates of brain disorders, and aims to facilitate and homogenize advanced analyses of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) datasets around the globe.

“I was pleasantly surprised,” Lariviere says about learning she won. “I know some of the other trainees who were competing for this award and they have all made fantastic contributions to Open Science, including high quality open access datasets and data processing pipelines which I frequently use myself. Knowing that I was competing against high-calibre candidates, I can't help but feel extremely grateful and honored to have received this award.”

About the Prizes

This year the prize selection committee received applications from all over the world, including several international collaborations and initiatives, showing the scope of the movement is growing. The Prizes were presented at the Neuro Open Science in Action Symposium 2021, in the presence of Dr. Frank Litvack of the Irv and Helga Cooper Foundation, the prize sponsors. The Irv and Helga Cooper Foundation is a California-based non-profit dedicated to the support of human rights and well-being and to combating misinformation and negative stereotyping worldwide.

“The applications we received this year were once again astonishing. We were faced with the near impossible task of selecting only three projects,” says Adrien Peyrache, chair of the prize committee. “Each of the winners are excellent examples of what Open Science can achieve. Thanks to the Irv and Helga Cooper Foundation for supporting this worthy cause.”

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