More Big Money for Basic Brain Science. This Time at Carnegie Mellon

All hail basic science. It ain’t glamorous, and even when it yields big revelations, they’re never quite as catchy as “X Protein Revealed to Cause Leprosy, Caffeine Dependence, and Buying Leopard Print Shoes!”

So it's no wonder that many funders are attracted to science geared toward discovering the specific cause or cure for some disorder. One big countervailing trend, though, is all the interest in the workings of the brain. In fact, many funders are intrigued by the notion that we're living in the "Century of the Brain." And advancements in neurology require a great deal of square-one science.

That realization is behind Carnegie Mellon University’s latest announcement that it's launching the CMU BrainHub, an initiative devoted to discovering how the brain’s unique structure and activity enables complex behavior.

There will be global partners from China, India, and the U.K. There will be participation by long-time CMU collaborators at the University of Pittsburgh. CMU’s computational strengths will be especially useful as the initiative develops new tools for studying the links between the physical nature of the brain and cognition, learning, and perception.

Lest you be thinking this is just a “for the sake of knowledge” endeavor, let it be known that BrainHub will also serve as a conduit to promote the most promising revelations, enabling their dissemination and commercialization. The price tag so far stands at $75 million. 

Where is the money coming from? Well, it’s a mash-up. There’s existing funding going toward neurology, as well as contributions from philanthropic foundations including the Hillman Foundation, RK Mellon Foundation and Dietrich Foundation; Kris Gopalakrishnan, (co-founder of Infosys); institutional partners; U.S. federal and local government; and internal CMU commitments from colleges and schools.

Moving forward, we’ll be interested to see if this sparks an increased interest in funding basic brain science. And of course we’ll be on the edge of our seats waiting for the advances sure to come, advances that could yield big insight into Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, stroke, and other brain conditions.