National Photonics Initiative will invest $30M+ to support BRAIN Initiative

Leaders of the National Photonics Initiative (NPI; Washington, DC) launched its Photonics Industry Neuroscience Group alongside officials from the White House Office of Science and Technology (OSTP) in conjunction with the White House BRAIN Initiative conference held Sept. 30, 2014. Members of the NPI industry group are committing to invest upwards of $30 million in existing and future research and development spending over the next three years to advance optics and photonics technology in support of the White House's Brain Research through Advancing Imaging Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative.

Related: The BRAIN Initiative: Opportunities for optics and photonics

The NPI industry group is comprised of top US industry leaders in optics and photonics, including Accumetra, Agilent, Applied Scientific Instrumentation, Coherent, Hamamatsu, Inscopix, Spectra-Physics, and Thorlabs. Under the NPI, the industry consortium will work closely with national BRAIN Initiative leadership and neuroscience research communities to help achieve the administration's objective to revolutionize our understanding of the human brain. The consortium will address neurosciences challenges such as:

  • Developing the imaging optics, laser sources, and automated scanning technology and high-resolution cameras to provide up to a 100-fold increase in the capability of imaging groups of thousands of active neurons;
  • Developing miniature, affordable, portable, and implantable microscopes compatible with high-throughput facilities for therapeutic screening based on neural activity signatures;
  • Using large-scale, high-throughput protein engineering technology to develop a new generation of fluorescent indicators of neural activity with 10-fold improvements in efficiency and temporal response; and
  • Developing automated software for detailed mapping of the human brain, architecture, neuronal wiring geometry, and dynamic activity from three-dimensional data sets generated by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computed tomography (CT), and microscopic imaging.

Members of the NPI Photonics Industry Neuroscience Group were invited to the White House BRAIN Initiative conference that was also attended by leadership from OSTP, the National Institutes of Health, and the National Science Foundation. Launched in April 2013, the BRAIN Initiative was created in response to President Obama's call for innovative technologies that can create a dynamic understanding of brain function, and ultimately help researchers find new ways to treat, cure, and even prevent brain disorders such as Alzheimer's disease, epilepsy, and traumatic brain injury (TBI). The conference highlighted new commitments and investments by the Federal government, private sector companies, universities, and non-profit organizations to support the goals of the BRAIN Initiative.

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