In Seventh Round of BRAIN Initiative Funding, Vision Continues to Receive Significant Awards

On November 19, 2020, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced the seventh round of new funding awards within the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative, a special NIH program mandated by the 21st Century Cures Act. In Fiscal Year (FY) 2020, BRAIN is funding 407 projects totaling nearly $500 million, which includes 190 new awards, competing renewals, and supplements totaling nearly $244 million. To-date BRAIN has funded more than 900 grants totaling $1.8 billion.  

At its February 12 National Advisory Eye Council (NAEC) meeting, the National Eye Institute (NEI)––one of the ten NIH Institutes whose mission and current research complements the BRAIN Initiative’s goals––reported on the number and dollar value of awards made to vision within the 190 new awards, competing renewals, and supplements. NEI identifies vision in the retina or brain as “vision” research, and “vision-related” research includes current or past NEI grantees funded by BRAIN.  Combined, these categories received 87 new awards or 46 percent of the 190 new awards, competing renewals, or supplements, for a total of $113.6 million. Since funding for BRAIN began in FY2014 appropriations, “vision/vision related” has received more than $423 million in new grant awards, competing renewals, and supplements.    

Announced in April 2013 by President Obama, the BI 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 mandates $4.8 billion in spending between FY2017 and FY2026 for special NIH initiatives including BRAIN,  the Precision Medicine “All of Us” Initiative, the Cancer Moonshot, and Regenerative Medicine Initiative (which ends in FY2020).