Breaking News – White House Announces "BRAIN" initiative

“Brain Research Through Advancing Innovative Technologies” will be the subject of over $100 million in federal investment.  DARPA will contribute $50 million, NIH $40 million, and NSF $20 million.   They will partner with the Allen Institute ($60 million), Kavli Foundation ($4 million), Salk Institute ($28 million), and Howard Hughes Medical Institute ($30 million).  It’s not clear what all these dollar figures really mean, but it almost certainly beats a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.

BRAIN is to be led by two prominent neuroscientists:  Bill Newsome at Stanford (great scientist, good guy) and Cori Bargmann at Rockefeller University (don’t know her, though know her name).

BRAIN is to have an ethics component, to be handled (initially?) by the President making requests to the President’s Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues (PCSBI).  PCSBI has at least two members were versed in neuroethics and law and neuroscience:  Nita Farahany and Jonathan Moreno.  In the long run I think any one general bioethics commission won’t prove adequate – I’d prefer “let a hundred flowers bloom,” though that requires water, fertilizer, and (of course) money for those flowers.  But this is astart.

Here’s the White House announcement:  White House.

Here’s a useful NY TImes article about the project:  NYT.

How important this will turn out to be, of course, remains to be seen. It is not a commitment at the level of the Human Genome Project, but there doesn’t seem to be the same kind of target available as there was for the HGP. I’m optimistic – but that’s probably just my brain talking.  🙂

Hank Greely

CORRECTIONS MADE:  I not only misspelled Dr. Bargmann’s name, but I placed her at the wrong university in Manhattan – she is at Rockefeller University.