European Commission Announces New €150m Brain Research Fund
The European Commission (EC) has announced the creation of a new €150m fund for brain research, to mark the start of its ‘European Month of the Brain’ initiative. This amount brings total EU investment in brain research since 2007 to over €1.9 billion.
The latest funding will go towards 20 new international research projects covering key areas such as traumatic brain injury, mental disorders, pain, epilepsy and paediatric conduct disorders; the names of individual projects have not been released as final grant agreements have not yet been concluded. The pharma industry is expected to have a particularly strong involvement in three of these areas – mental disorders, epilepsy and paediatric conduct disorders – where it is hoped they will be able to fuel innovation and offer real-life solutions.
The ‘European Month of the Brain’ (#brainmonth) is intended to showcase the latest achievements in European research and innovation in areas such as neuroscience and cognition, and to encourage debate as to the direction of future research. To this end, over 50 different events are planned throughout Europe for decision-makers, stakeholders, the media and the public. Key events include a conference in Brussels on May 14 that will take stock of European projects and outline future challenges in brain research, and a conference in Dublin on May 27 and 28 discussing European foresight policy for brain research and healthcare.
The European Research, Innovation and Science Commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn explained how more research on the brain could help lower healthcare costs across Europe: “Treating those affected [by a brain condition] is already costing us €1.5m every minute and this burden on our healthcare systems is likely to rise as our population ages. Brain research could help alleviate the suffering of millions of patients and those that care for them. Unlocking the secrets of how the brain works could also open up a whole new universe of services and products for our economies.”
The announcement by the EC comes only a month after plans for a similar project, the BRAIN initiative (Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies), were unveiled in the U.S by Barack Obama. Obama proposed that $100m be allocated to the BRAIN or ‘Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies’ initiative in order to improve the technologies and procedures for mapping the approximately 100 billion neurons of the human brain and the roughly 150 trillion connections between them (known as the ‘connectome’). The goals of the scheme include understanding how the brain forms memories and controls behaviour; how it becomes damaged in conditions such as Parkinson’s disease and autism; and how to repair the brains of people with Alzheimer’s, post-traumatic stress disorder and other afflictions.
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