A research foundation just tripled its funding for Obama’s massive project to understand the human brain

Human brain

A research foundation announced plans Thursday to invest $US100 million in the BRAIN Initiative, the Obama administration’s ambitious project to develop new tools to understand the human brain and its disorders.

The Kavli Foundation provided the funding, the majority of which will go toward establishing neuroscience centres at Johns Hopkins University, The Rockefeller University and UC San Francisco.

The National Institutes of Health also announced $US38 million in new funding for the initiative.

“Most scientific advances get made because you have new tools,” Robert Conn, president and CEO of The Kavli Foundation, said Thursday in a briefing on Capital Hill. “This enables you to ask questions and find answers that you couldn’t find before.”

President Obama launched the BRAIN Initiative (Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies) in April 2013. At the time, The Kavli Foundation pledged $US40 million to support basic neuroscience research, and the new funding more than triples that amount.

“We’re in this for the long run. This is not sprint,” Congressman Chaka Fattah (D-PA), said at the briefing.

Worldwide, up to a billion people, including more than 40 million in the US, suffer from brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s Disease.

Each of the new neuroscience institutes will get a $US20 million pool of funding, supported equally by their universities and the Foundation, plus start-up funding. The foundations will be able to use the money however they see fit.

The new institutes join four existing neuroscience institutes at Columbia University, UC San Diego, Yale, and the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. These are part of a larger network of 20 Kavli Institutes for astrophysics, nanoscience, neuroscience, and theoretical physics.

The BRAIN Initiative is also supported by the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, and the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency, plus private partners including the Allen Institute for Brain Science and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

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