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Shaping up. In a highly anticipated report, the mysterious BRAIN Initiative begins to take form.


More than $100 million in new BRAIN funds

WASHINGTON, D.C.—As part of President Barack Obama’s high-profile initiative to study the brain, the Kavli Foundation and several university partners today announced $100 million in new funding for neuroscience research, including three new institutes at universities in Maryland, New York, and California. Each of the institutes will receive a $20 million endowment, provided equally by their universities and the foundation, along with start-up funding to pursue projects in areas such as brain plasticity and tool development.

The new funding, geared at providing stable support for high-risk, interdisciplinary research, exceeds the original commitment of $40 million that the Kavli Foundation made to the national Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative, when it was first launched by President Obama in 2013. The funds are also unrestricted, allowing each institute to determine which projects to pursue. “That’s the most precious money any scientist can have,” Robert Conn, president and CEO of The Kavli Foundation, noted at a meeting today on Capitol Hill. Neuroscientist Loren Frank, who will serve as co-director at the new institute at the University of California, San Francisco, says the funds will allow his lab to explore fundamental questions such as how the brain can maintain its function despite constant change, and to form interdisciplinary partnerships with labs such as the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

The other two sites creating new institutes are Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, and Rockefeller University in New York City. In addition, Kavli announced a $40 million boost for four of its existing neuroscience institutes, located at Yale University, UC San Diego, Columbia University, and the Norwegian University of Science and Technology.

Obama administration officials and university presidents applauded the news. “Today is another milestone” for the BRAIN initiative, said Tom Insel, departing director of the National Institutes of Mental Health. Insel also announced that NIH has issued 67 new BRAIN awards to 131 investigators, a $38 million increase over last year’s $46 million, which brings the NIH’s FY 2015 contribution to the initiative to $85 million. Among the awardees are researchers working on ultrasound methods for measuring brain activity, and the use of deep brain stimulation to treat traumatic brain injuries.