BRAIN initiative / Economy / Healthcare

Smart BRAIN Initiative

Cheers to the President…and to his $100 million research initiative to map out the human brain.

Government agencies, such as the National Institutes of Health, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, and the National Science Foundation, are joining the initiative as well as private sector organizations such as The Allen Institute for Brain Science, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Kavli Foundation, and Salk Institute for Biological Studies.

On April 2nd, the President announced an exciting, new research program called Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies, also known as the BRAIN Initiative. This program “promises to accelerate the invention of new technologies that will help researchers produce real-time pictures of complex neural circuits and visualize the rapid-fire interactions of cells that occur at the speed of thought.”

Basically this initiative will be, hopefully, mirror the very successful Human Genome Project.

The Human Genome Project began in October 1990 as an international scientific research project that aimed to unveil and to map the human genome. In genetics, a genome consists of both genes and non-coding sequences of DNA and RNA. According to the National Institutes of Health, the project cost approximately $2.7 billion in FY1991, which was less than the expected cost of $3 billion.

Why is this important?

Now that the Human Genome Project is complete, researchers and scientists are able to better assess newer and better drugs due to the ability to efficiently predict health risks and responses. In addition, the project allowed inventions of new technologies for biological research advancements on a smaller scale for the individual scientists. The BRAIN initiative has similar goals and achievements that it will seek to accomplish over years of research and development.

Also, there were positive financial outcomes from the Human Genome Project. Back in February 12th, the President stated in his State of the Union address that “Every dollar we invested to map the human genome returned $140 to our economy. Every dollar. Today, our scientists are mapping the human brain to unlock the answer to Alzheimer’s … We need to make those investments.”

Even though the $100 million BRAIN initiative proposal seems ungenerous compared to an estimated $2.7 billion spent on the Human Genome Project, I applaud the President for keeping his word and for making an investment for an important scientific research.

A successful BRAIN initiative could potentially increase our capabilities to improve treatment and prevention of serious conditions such Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy, and other traumatic brain injuries. The goal is to formulate a sophisticated comprehension of the human brain and to explore the neural activities and connect them to our actions and decisions.

I hope that Congress can see that this initiative is an innovative opportunity to further expand medical research – it is an investment worth funding. Possible outcomes from the final project are monumental to the neuroscience community as well as to medicine. This could better aid in discovering the genetic roots of common diseases, an important step in further medical advances.

Hopefully, Congress will make the wise decision to approve the President’s BRAIN initiative proposal for the fiscal year 2014 budget.