A new cross-disciplinary Brain Institute that opened last spring at the University of Virginia last spring has already begun positioning the university as a national and state reference for brain research and education as well as a top treatment center for brain disorders like epilepsy.
The Brain Institute is supporting a multidisciplinary brain science research program and has already awarded initial funding to its first seven projects — in epilepsy, depression, aggressive brain tumors, traumatic brain injuries (TBI), brain imaging, and others. The total funding for these projects is $550,000.
In addition, one of the institute’s objectives is to create a public repository of brain cell data.
UVA is also reinforcing its commitment to its neuroscience graduate program by doubling the number of annually funded students from six to 12. University researchers are also developing an undergraduate summer fellowship program to train future neuroscientists with hands-on research experience, and the Brain Institute is on its way to organizing a new symposium series which will provide grant recipients an opportunity to present their work.
The institute is anticipating additional funding to allow for a second round of projects in 2017, and aims to build on the university’s strengths to encourage multidisciplinary approaches.
“The purpose of this seed-funding program is to bring neuroscience investigators together from across the university to tackle important questions and perform transformative work that will differentiate our research enterprise,” Jaideep Kapur, director of the Brain Institute, said in a UVA news piece. “We believe that the projects we’re kicking off, and future projects that we will fund, will demonstrate the value of investing in brain science for the betterment of the university, the state of Virginia, and society broadly through better patient care and treatments.”
The Brain Institute is part of the UVA-Virginia Tech Carilion Neuroscience Research Collaboration, which awards grants to nine Virgina Tech research teams to tackle problems in brain function and health. These projects will look at problems like seizures, concussions, treatments for malignant brain tumors, and therapies for multiple sclerosis, among others.
“The pan-University UVA Brain Institute has positioned UVA as a prominent thought leader in the neurosciences, both within the commonwealth and across the nation, and is in a strong position to play a leading role in such a collaborative program in neuroscience,” said Phillip Parrish, UVA’s interim vice president for research.
“In the words of one of the external reviewers of the UVA Brain Institute’s pan-university proposal, the institute has the potential to take UVA from ‘prominence to preeminence’ in the field of neuroscience,” he said.