Global coordination and collaboration among large-scale brain research projects will accelerate progress toward understanding and treating the brain.
Original press release published by The Kavli Foundation.
SEPTEMBER 19, 2016 (NEW YORK)
In the past three years, many nations around the world have developed large-scale research projects focused on understanding the brain. Today, the leaders of those projects are meeting in New York City to coordinate efforts to advance fundamental brain research and address the growing burden of brain disorders.
The event, Coordinating Global Brain Projects, brings together scientists, government representatives and philanthropic organizations from around the world to discuss how to work together to maximize the impact of the new neuroscience data, research tools and insights. Participating countries include the United States, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Cuba, France, Germany, India, Israel, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, the United Kingdom and Uruguay. The meeting is supported by the U.S. National Science Foundation and The Kavli Foundation, and hosted by Rockefeller University in cooperation with Columbia University.
“Understanding the human brain in health and in disease is one of the most challenging problems in science, and we need a collective approach in the 21st Century to make progress at the fastest possible rate. I am excited to help launch a new era in neuroscience, in which researchers and public and private funders worldwide will work together to make this initiative a success,” says Robert W. Conn, PhD, President and Chief Executive Officer of The Kavli Foundation.
Neuroscience is undergoing a revolution due to technological developments in genetics, biology, engineering and computing that are providing researchers with increasingly powerful tools with which to probe the brain. In the United States, this transformation is partly driven by the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative, a public-private collaborative effort to catalyze the development and application of new experimental tools and techniques for studying the brain.
Since its launch, the BRAIN Initiative has received widespread bipartisan support and garnered commitments from more than a dozen private partners, including universities, foundations and technology firms, in addition to five U.S. federal agencies. It has attracted to neuroscience a talented corps of physical scientists—chemists, physicists, nanoscientists, engineers, mathematicians and computer scientists, and has already led to the development of more powerful and precise tools for investigating the brain.
The Kavli Foundation is one of the BRAIN Initiative’s original partners and was instrumental in its development; the idea of mapping the functioning brain, which provided much of the impetus for the BRAIN Initiative, was proposed at meeting of neuroscientists and nanoscientists hosted by The Kavli Foundation in 2011. Today’s event is just one of the many ways in which The Kavli Foundation continues to support the BRAIN Initiative’s ambitious goals.
“The U.S. BRAIN Initiative is a striking example of the power of public-private collaborations. The international community can learn from it to create a truly global brain research enterprise,” says Conn.
The economic, social and health-related benefits of an international brain initiative could be profound, leading to better treatments for the millions of people around the world who are affected by neurological and psychiatric diseases, as well as to new industries based on emerging neurotechnologies and insights into how the brain processes information.
In preparation for today, more than 60 scientists from the U.S. and abroad came together at Johns Hopkins University’s Kavli Neuroscience Discovery Institute last April for the Global Brain Workshop 2016. There, they identified three grand challenges (pdf) that the global neuroscience community could solve in the next 10 years, spanning anatomy, physiology and medicine. To meet those challenges, the workshop scientists conceived of an "International Brain Station”—an online platform to facilitate data sharing and analysis. A universal resource such as an International Brain Station could serve as a cornerstone of a broader international brain initiative, creating opportunities for neuroscientists worldwide, from a graduate student in Brazil to a post-doctoral fellow in India, to develop and test new models of brain function.
“Over the past three decades, astronomers and experimental physicists have demonstrated the power of international collaboration to make breakthrough discoveries, many of which have hinged on big data. They too have faced the new reality of data-driven science and the challenge of creating an infrastructure to support that science. I am certain that neuroscientists will also rise to this challenge, starting with innovative ideas such as the International Brain Station,” says Miyoung Chun, PhD, Executive Vice President of Science Programs at The Kavli Foundation.
A separate but complementary side event at the 71st Session of the United Nations General Assembly will follow the Coordinating Global Brain Projects conference. It aims to establish brain science as a foreign policy priority and to work toward the launch of an International Brain Station.
The event will consist of two fireside chats between government representatives from the U.S., Japan, Germany, Argentina and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development and is organized by the U.S. government, in collaboration with The Kavli Foundation and the Global Partnerships Forum.