Two of Nova Scotia's top medical researchers — including a neurologist and brain surgeon — are leaving the province and Dalhousie University for greener pastures.
Dr. Ivar Mendez and Dr. Donald Weaver have been commercializing advanced medical research in Halifax. Both have been lured away from Dalhousie University for more prestigious positions elsewhere in Canada.
"There's nothing negative pushing me away. There's something positive attracting me," said Weaver, a neurologist.
Weaver and a team of 22 researchers have been looking for a drug to treat severe neurological disorders such as Alzheimer's disease.
On July 1, Weaver takes over the Toronto Western Research Institute, home to research programs associated with the neural and visual sciences, musculoskeletal disease and urban and community health priority programs.
"The amount of space available to me will increase five-fold," he told CBC News on Thursday.
"That's a difficult opportunity to ignore."
Weaver will take between 10 and 15 people with him to Toronto. One of his biomedical companies — Treventis Corporation — will also relocate. Two other spinoff companies created by his research will remain in Halifax.
"When you try to develop drugs you want to do it quickly. Could all of the things I'm doing be done here? Certainly. It would take longer," he said.
Last summer, the Sobey Foundation donated $2 million to the Dalhousie Medical Research Foundation to establish the DMRF Irene MacDonald Sobey Endowed Chair in Curative Approaches to Alzheimer's Disease. Weaver was named chair of that program.
The Sobey Foundation told CBC News in a statement on Thursday that it was "disappointed" to learn Weaver was leaving Nova Scotia, but "delighted to know that he will continue his research in this incredibly important field."
"The foundation's $2-million donation to the Dalhousie Medical Research Foundation was made to advance the world-class research being done at the university and will in no way be impacted by Dr. Weaver's departure," the foundation said in a statement.
"The foundation has been in close contact with the university and knows they will be working diligently to fill the Irene MacDonald Sobey Endowed Chair in Curative Approaches to Alzheimer's Disease."
Mendez taking over innovative job in Saskatchewan
Mendez, a Halifax neurosurgeon, will become the head of surgery at the University of Saskatchewan and the Saskatoon Health Region on June 1.
"It's province wide. It's a unique position in the country," Mendez told CBC News.
"If you have a province-wide head, you can rationalize surgical service. You can strategize how services will be provided. The idea at the end of the day is to have access to the best services possible. This would have been something great to do here."
The Bolivia-born Mendez has earned wide acclaim for his pioneering work in remote medicine. He founded the Brain Repair Centre in Halifax and was instrumental in developing Dalhousie University's $66-million Life Sciences Research Institute.
After 18 years in Halifax — including 10 as head of neurosurgery — Mendez said it was time to move on.
"It is important for new leadership to take over," he said.
When asked about the high-profile departures, Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter said Thursday, "It's not about the money, they are already very well paid. They are looking at specific opportunities that exist."
Dr. Martha Crago, Dalhousie University's vice-president of research, said both experts will be replaced.
"We're sorry to see both go. Both are getting terrific opportunities. There will be other people coming in the door as they go out," Crago told CBC News.
"It's hard to compete."
Crago noted the $1.4 million in federal funding associated with the Canada Research Chair in Neuroscience, held by Weaver, will remain with Dalhousie University.
Mendez and Weaver's departures were revealed by the business website allnovascotia.com.