Last month, the president unveiled with great fanfare a major announcement on the “Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies” (BRAIN) initiative. This multiyear research endeavor proposes roughly $100 million in funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). The initiative will also include dedicated research investments by private foundations, research institutes and companies. While UC San Diego is uniquely positioned to contribute to and advance this effort, there is already San Diego DNA woven into the initiative itself. Over a year ago, researchers from UC San Diego, Salk, and the Kavli Foundation helped to generate a white paper that formed the genesis of the BRAIN initiative. UC San Diego will also be well represented on the NIH’s BRAIN working group, which will advise the NIH director on this matter, as Roger Tsien of UC San Diego and Terry Sejnowski of both UC San Diego and the Salk Institute have been named to this prestigious panel.
Earlier this month, the Office of Research Affairs and Vice Chancellor Sandra Brown arranged to host NIH director Francis Collins for a brief visit to campus, for an intimate briefing and discussion with a small group of involved faculty of next steps on the BRAIN Initiative. The result was a productive exchange of perspectives and ideas, and this ongoing dialogue with NIH (and the other federal agency partners) is one in which UC San Diego will remain closely engaged over the months and years to come.
The BRAIN initiative is and will continue to be a top policy and funding priority, certainly for UC San Diego but also for our entire region, and the biotechnology and life sciences clusters that help to drive our economy. Just as San Diego benefited from the efforts to map the human genome, so does it stand to benefit from the BRAIN initiative. Our region’s world-class researchers, students and faculty, combined with our robust health and life sciences sectors, will make key contributions to the understanding of brain function and how that can improve and enhance human health. The discoveries and technologies that will spin off from these efforts into are economy can only be imagined at this point, but the potential impact is enormous.