BRAIN Initiative will fly -- regardless of budget approval

Although the U.S. Congress hasn’t approved the president’s 2014 budget, and as of midnight last night, the government officially shut down, I predict that the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative will get the green light to move forward. This is good news for optogenetics and other biophotonics-based tools for neurology applications.

The initiative already has congressional support. Chaka Fattah (D-Pa.) has championed the issue in the House and effectively rallied other members to the cause. In March 2013, Obama signed the “Fattah Neuroscience Initiative,” a piece of legislation authored by Fattah aimed at improving neuroscience research and involving the private sector in this work. In the new law, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) is directed to “work with all relevant stakeholders to consider how incentives could hasten the development of new prevention and treatment options for neurological diseases and disorders, and to recommend options for such incentives.” 

Fattah was also instrumental in establishing the first coordinated multi-agency neuroscience research under the OSTP umbrella. This collaboration is now the Interagency Working Group on Neuroscience.

Amy Klobucher (D-Minn.) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) are promoting the initiative in the Senate.

I think that even if the budget passes with limited resources, the agencies involved will still issue requests for proposals (RFPs) related to the BRAIN Initiative. Here’s why:

  • The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is already supporting advanced prosthetics programs and large dataset computing. Because DARPA is eager to develop a brain model to use as a reference point to explore new technologies and brain injury issues, I think it will move money around as needed to support these and other projects.
  • In March 2013, the National Science Foundation (NSF) issued a “Dear Colleague” letter inviting proposals for research that will accelerate integrative research in neuroscience and cognitive science. The foundation also has a number of strong programs in this area.
  • In a briefing posted on YouTube, NIH’s Collins implied that NIH would find a way to support the initiative especially since Collins can use money from the Director’s Fund for projects he deems worthy.

Stay tuned...

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