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Initiative seeks $4.5B for brain research

June 5, 2014
by Lois A. Bowers, Senior Editor
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A new federal report calls for $4.5 billion in funding for brain research over the next 12 years.

“As a result of this concerted effort, new technologies will be invented, new industries spawned and new treatments and even cures discovered for devastating disorders and diseases of the brain and nervous system,” National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Francis S. Collins, MD, PhD, says of the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative. He approved the report’s recommendations after they were presented to him by his advisory committee’s BRAIN Working Group.

The NIH efforts on the BRAIN Initiative will seek to map the circuits of the brain, measure the fluctuating patterns of electrical and chemical activity flowing within those circuits and understand how their interplay creates humans’ unique cognitive and behavioral capabilities. The initiative is jointly led by the NIH, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency of the U.S. Department of Defense, the National Science Foundation and the Food and Drug Administration. Private organizations also have invested in the initiative.

The working group outlines an investment of $400 million a year for fiscal years 2016‒2020 to focus on technology development and validation. It also calls for $500 million a year for years 2020‒2025 to increasingly focus on the application of those technologies in an integrated fashion to make fundamental new discoveries about the brain. The cost estimates assume that the budget for the BRAIN Initiative will supplement, not supplant, the NIH’s existing investment in the broader spectrum of basic, translational and clinical neuroscience research, according to the working group.

“While these estimates are provisional and subject to congressional appropriations, they represent a realistic estimate of what will be required for this ‘moon shot’ initiative,” Collins says. “As the Human Genome Project did with precision medicine, the BRAIN Initiative promises to transform the way we prevent and treat devastating brain diseases and disorders while also spurring economic development.”

In December, NIH announced six funding opportunities in response to high-priority areas identified by the BRAIN Working Group in September 2013. Awards are expected to be announced in September.

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