NIH Announces Fourth Round of BRAIN Initiative Awards, Vision Research Receives Significant Funding

NIH Announces Fourth Round of BRAIN Initiative Awards, Vision Research Receives Significant Funding

Legislative Update
October 24, 2017

With the September 30, 2017, end of Fiscal Year (FY) 2017, on October 23 the National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced funding for 110 new awards totaling $169 million for the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative (BI), bringing the total FY2017 funding investment for the program to $260 million. Maps of whole brains in action, the ability to identify thousands of brain cells at a time, and innovative brain scanners are just a few of the advances funded by this groundbreaking effort, according to NIH.

The FY2017 awards reflect the fourth round of BI awards. The BI began with $46 million in initial awards in FY2014, with $38 million of new funding awards in FY2015 and $67.4 million of new funding awards in FY2016. These previous awards focused primarily on efforts to develop new tools and technologies to understand neural circuit function and capture a dynamic view of the brain in action, and the FY2017 new awards will build upon the significant progress already made through the past investment.

Since the retina is part of the brain, vision researchers and those studying brain circuitry through the visual route have done well in all four funding cycles. Of the $169 million in new FY2017 awards, $89.6 million, or 53 percent, went to research that was either vision-related or involved key personnel who have received National Eye Institute (NEI) grants in the past. As $66.4 million in new awards was provided to vision-related research in the first three funding cycles ($22 million in FY2014, $10.3 million in FY2015, and $34.1 million in FY2016), the FY2017 to-date total of new awards to vision is $156 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. The BI is managed by ten NIH Institutes and Centers (I/Cs) whose missions and current research portfolios complement the goals of the BI, including the NEI.