A collaborative initiative between Muscular Dystrophy Canada (MDC) and Novartis Pharmaceuticals Canada (Novartis) provided $414,000 to assist in the preparedness of newborn screening for spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) in the Maritime provinces of Canada.

The funding would be used for a readiness assessment to determine the feasibility of adding SMA to newborn screening panels in Canada for Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island, according to a press release. The funds were provided to the Maritime Newborn Screening Program (MNSP), based at the Izaak Walton Killam Health Centre in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

“We’re honored to partner on work that will bring lasting impact to the SMA community and healthcare systems across Canada,” Andrea Marazzi, country pharma organization head of Novartis Pharmaceuticals Canada said. “Time to diagnosis is crucial in SMA.”

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MDC and Novartis accepted proposals from organizations hoping to add SMA screening panels to their province or territory to ensure an evidence-based approach to funding. The proposals were then evaluated by an independent international peer review committee overseen by MDC.

MDC previously announced the awarding of funding for SMA newborn screening efforts in Alberta, Manitoba, and Quebec, Canada.

“In a neuromuscular disorder like SMA, where time is of the essence, early diagnosis and prompt access to treatments are critical to achieving the best possible outcomes. Sadly, most provinces are not yet screening for this treatable disorder,” Stacey Lintern, chief executive officer of MDC said.

Currently, Ontario is the only Canadian province that provides newborn screening for SMA, but Alberta and Manitoba should begin soon.

“I thank the healthcare leaders at MNSP, Novartis, the SMA community and MDC’s dedicated Board of Directors, Fire Fighters, clients, donors and supporters, for getting us another step closer to ensuring all Canadian newborns are screened for SMA,” Lintern said.


Screening newborns for spinal muscular atrophy closer to reality in the Maritimes. News Release. Muscular Dystrophy Canada; November 18, 2021.

National collaboration awards funding for newborn screening in spinal muscular atrophy (SMA). News Release. Muscular Dystrophy Canada; July 20, 2021.