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NIH Announces BRAIN Initiative Grants for 2017

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – The National Institutes of Health on Monday announced that it has awarded $169 million in funding for 2017 to support more than 100 new projects in the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative.

The BRAIN Initiative was established in 2013, and the new grants — which the agency has been awarding over the course of the past two months — aim to build on its progress by promoting the development of new tools and technologies to understand neural circuit function and capture a dynamic view of the brain in action, the NIH said.

Among the recipients of the new funding is the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, which was awarded a five-year grant — worth $5 million in its first year — to establish the Center for Epigenomics of the Mouse Brain Atlas, which will perform single-cell epigenetic profiling on individual neurons throughout the mouse brain, and link cell types to anatomy for detailed characterization of their locations, morphology, and brain-wide connectivity and projections. Genetic profiling data will also be used to generate tools to target gene expression to and interrogate the roles of various cell types. The Salk Institute said the total worth of its funding for the five-year duration of the grant will be $25 million.

The Allen Institute for Brain Sciences has also been awarded three five-year grants under the BRAIN Initiative: the first — worth $13.7 million this year — for the creation of a whole-brain atlas of cell types in the mouse; the second — for $4.1 million in 2017 — will fund a multimodal atlas of human brain cell types; and the third — for $3 million in the first year — will help with the establishment of community resource for single-cell brain data. As the institute announced yesterday, its grants are worth nearly $100 million in total for their entire five-year run.

Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory received a number of BRAIN Initiative grants this year, including a three-year project worth $2.7 million in 2017 to develop a technique that enables researchers there to sequence and map individual neurons in the brain. And Harvard Medical School was awarded a three-year grant — worth $2.4 million in the first year — to establish a strategy for developing cell type-specific viral vectors that can be used for applications including monitoring neuronal activity, optogenetic and chemogenetic manipulation, gene delivery, and genome editing.

The University of Maryland, Baltimore won a five-year grant — worth $1.2 million this year — to develop the Neuroscience Multi-Omic Archive, a data repository specifically for the storage and dissemination of omic data from the BRAIN Initiative and related brain research projects. Meanwhile, Stanford University was awarded a two-year grant worth $740,725 in the first year to expand the the Brain Imaging Data Structure — an emerging standard for neuroimaging data and metadata organization — to include the description and organization of data/metadata derived from BRAIN Initiative-generated raw data.

"Understanding the way the brain processes information and how it lays down memories and retrieves them will be instrumental for understanding brain health, and ultimately, preventing brain disease," NIH Director Francis Collins said in a statement. "These awards add to work already underway to give us a high-resolution picture of the circuits and networks in the brain, how they work, and where they can go wrong."