CVCA Member Profiles

CVCA Member Profile: The Centre for Aging + Brain Health Innovation


The Centre for Aging + Brain Health Innovation (CABHI) was founded in 2015 through funding of $124 million (CAD) from the Federal Government of Canada, the Provincial Government of Ontario, and corporate partners. This was the result of the largest investment in aging and brain health in Canadian history, and one of the largest investments of its kind in the world. CABHI has since been refunded from the Federal Government of Canada and the Provincial Government of Ontario bringing their total funding to close to $200 million.

CABHI’s mission is to accelerate the development, validation, commercialization, dissemination, and adoption of innovative products, services, and best practices to support brain health and aging.

We caught up with the CABHI investments & Venture Services team to learn more about its unique thesis and ecosystem to support agetech companies.

Tell Us About the Centre for Aging + Brain Health and Its Unique Program Offerings to Support Agetech Companies

CABHI is currently supported by a team of 20 employees in Ontario, Quebec, and soon to be Halifax, and is spearheaded by President and Chief Scientist, Dr. Allison Sekuler. CABHI is also powered by Baycrest, a global leader in geriatric care, and home to the Rotman Research Institute, one of the world’s top research institutes in cognitive neuroscience. With more than 100 years of experience in improving the well-being of older adults and serving the needs of the people who care for them, CABHI builds on Baycrest’s much sought-after expertise and exemplary care experience. 

CABHI operates a suite of acceleration programs and services to advance solutions that improve the lives of older adults. CABHI’s Mentorship, Capital, and Continuation (MC2) Programs, in partnership with National Bank, offers unique investment programs dedicated to supporting early-stage Canadian healthtech and fintech companies. These programs include:

  1. MC2 Validation: $300k investment to support clinical and product validation in real world settings.
  2. MC2 Capital: $400k investment to support early market penetration and pivotal study completion.
  3. MC2 Adoption: $250k investment, plus a $250k grant to support company growth and sales pipeline development.

As a hands-on investor, we provide our portfolio companies access to unique acceleration services to further grow and scale their company. These include access to 150+ trial site & buyer network, 120+ coaches community, 100+ venture community, 1100+ benefits / discounted services, subsidized student interns, subsidized consultants, and customer discovery support through our Leap platform.

To date, CABHI companies have secured more than $550M in carry-on investments and more than 50% of CABHI companies have received follow-on funding. Notable portfolio companies include:

  • Digital physical therapy provider Sword Health, which recently attained unicorn status 
  • Dementia falls prevention solution, SafelyYou
  • Virtual care platform Akira Health, acquired by TELUS Health
  • Neurohealth technology company BrainFx, acquired by Highmark Innovations, Inc.

What Is CABHI’s Focus?

At CABHI, we invest up to $400k in Canadian companies utilizing healthtech and fintech to help older adults age in the setting of their choice, maintaining their cognitive, emotional, and physical well-being as well as their independence for as long as possible. Each company receiving investment from CABHI must show impact in one of our Core Themes:

  • Aging at Home. Enabling older adults and people living with dementia to live in the setting of their choice and remain active in their communities for as long as possible.
  • Caregiver Support. Aiding or simplifying day-to-day caregiving responsibilities, providing education or training on caregiving topics, or helping caregivers maintain their own well-being while they care for older adults and people living with dementia.
  • Care Coordination and Navigation. Helping older adults and people living with dementia and their caregivers navigate the healthcare system to access timely and appropriate care, while also supporting healthcare providers to align their practice with long-term care standards.
  • Cognitive and Mental Health. Ensuring early detection of cognitive impairment or dementia in older adults; implementing preventative care approaches to maintain or enhance older adults’ brain health, including both cognitive and mental health supports; protecting the cognitive and mental health of seniors care and/​or dementia healthcare providers and caregivers.
  • Financial Health and Wellness. Helping older adults remain financially independent, stay safe in the workforce longer, seek later-life employment, prepare for retirement, plan for financing care, and prevent financial exploitation.

Can You Tell Us More About CABHI’s Investments & Venture Services Division, Traction to Date, and Its Leadership?

Over the past 3 years, CABHI’s Investments & Venture division has made over 46 investments through its MC2 programs, with the majority of investments being made in the past 14 months. They plan to make an additional 50+ investments over the next 2 years, growing this portfolio to over 100 investments. The most recent report from the CVCA (H12023 Canadian Venture Capital Market Overview) recognized CABHI’s commitment and dedication in this space. During the first half of 2023, CABHI’s MC2 programs were the most active Seed investor in Canada (22 deals closed), the most active private independent investor, and the second most active VC investor in all of Canada. CABHI re-invests the proceeds from these investments to support the sustainability of the Centre and provide additional value-added services to portfolio companies.

CABHI’s Investments & Venture Services division is a dynamic team of four and it is led by James Mayer and Mel Barsky. 

James Mayer: James has been at CABHI since 2017 and is actively involved in the entire investment lifecycle and helps companies with structuring validation trials, navigating regulatory and reimbursement hurdles, and customer discovery. Under his leadership, he has grown this division to become the most active angel, pre-seed, seed stage agetech investor (by deal volume) in North America. James is also a mentor at 500 Startups, Techstars, and One-mind, and a Venture Partner at Clearco, the world’s largest eCommerce investor that has invested $3+ billion into 7,000+ companies to date.

Mel Barsky: Mel was a Founding Partner and Executive Director of Scotiabank Private Equity Investments, where he invested in financial services and information technology sectors. Mel has held senior leadership positions with start-ups and Fortune 100 corporations, as well as governance experience on numerous private and public boards. Mel has been at CABHI since 2017 and has played an integral role in helping companies develop, develop, disseminate, and scale aging and brain health solutions. Prior to CABHI, Mel was Co-Founder, President & COO of healthtech company INTERVENT Canada. INTERVENT has served over 2.5 million patients globally; over 200 corporations; and has been published in more than 100 peer-reviewed major medical journals demonstrating the efficacy of its programs and improvement in health outcomes. 

Why Is It So Important to Invest in Agetech Companies?

Never in human history have we had such a large percentage of our population representing the seniors age demographic while also seeing a steady decline in birth rates. Coupled with that – the population over 60 is growing faster than any other age group and it is estimated by 2050, 20% of the world’s population will be over the age of 60, and over 30% of Canada’s population. While people are living longer, we are seeing a rise in chronic health conditions that negatively affect independence and quality of life. 

Although this may depict a challenging future for aging older adults, these challenges have created new opportunities for technologies to enable older adults to maintain their cognitive, emotional, and physical well-being for as long as possible. Through our investments, we aim to tackle the challenges of failing brain and age-related health issues, and enhance the quality of century-long lives, fostering a sense of belonging, purpose, and worth at all ages and stages.

We are excited to see our companies grow and penetrate the market, but more importantly, see the impact they have across our core themes and the lives of older adults and caregivers.