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NIH Announces Fifth Round of BRAIN Initiative Awards for FY2018, NEI Estimates that Vision Research Receives Significant Funding

Legislative Update
July 22, 2019

On November 2, 2018, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced the fifth round of new funding awards, made with Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 funding, for the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative (BI). Supported by Congress through both the regular appropriations process and the 21st Century Cures Act, total FY2018 support for BRAIN was $400 million, 50 percent more than in FY2017 ($260 million), with more than 200 new awards issued.

Since that time, the National Eye Institute (NEI) one of the ten NIH Institutes whose mission and current research complements the goals of the BRAIN Initiative has been engaged in analyzing the number and dollar value of awards made to vision within the more than 200 new awards. Since the retina is part of the brain, vision defined as either NEI funded vision researchers or those studying brain circuitry through the visual route has done well in all four previous funding cycles, with a total of more than $150 million in new awards. For FY2018, NEI estimates that vision has received 55 grants totaling $68.2 million or 38% of new award funding, bringing the five-year total of new funding for vision to more than $220 million.

The BI, announced in April 2013 by President Obama, was developed to be funded by the NIH, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), and the National Science Foundation (NSF), in addition to funding from private foundations, private research institutions, and industry. NIH's initial $40 million commitment in FY2014 has grown significantly as result of Congressional support, including the 21st Century Cures Act, passed in December 2016, that provides $4.8 billion between FY2017 and FY2026 for special NIH initiatives including BRAIN ($1.51 billion from FY2017-2026), the Precision Medicine Initiative, the Cancer Moonshot, and Regenerative Medicine Initiative.