When it Rains it Pours

It doesn’t seem that long ago that neurotech investigators and entrepreneurs were lamenting the dearth of funding available for developing new therapies and new commercial ventures. Make no mistake, it’s still no walk in the park to get money for startups but the situation has improved dramatically in recent months.

As we report on page 1 of this issue, DARPA has kicked in $40 million for research on neurotech approaches to treating memory disorders. This is in addition to the $70 million DARPA allocated last month for its SUBNETS program for DBS therapies for neuropsychiatric disorders [NBR Jun14 p1]. While most of the funds for both the RAM and SUBNETS programs will be directed at institutions such as UCSF, UCLA, Mass General, and Penn, that funding will trickle down to other institutions, clinical facilities, and device manufacturers as contracts and subcontracts are awarded. When you consider DARPA’s other neurotech programs, such as NeuroFAST, RE-NET, and HAPTIX, it’s hard to imagine a more benevolent agency of the U.S. government.

Not to be outdone, however, the NIH recently unveiled its SPARC program to fund electroceutical approaches to treating various systemic or organ disorders using neurostimulation, which may produce as much as $250 million in funding [see article, p5]. There are also indications that the president’s BRAIN initiative, as well as other White House neuroscience programs, are due for funding increases [NBR Jun14 p7]. And a host of other federal and state funding programs for neurotech development are also available to researchers and entrepreneurs alike.

Last month, we reported on a $21 million State of Ohio program to develop a neurotech incubator, which has brought in private funds to bring the total to over $160 million [NBR Jun14 p4]. The funding scenario is also vibrant in Europe. Neurotech pioneer John Donoghue of Brown University and founder of Cyberkinetics Inc. was recently named director of the new Wyss Center for Bio- and Neuro-Engineering in Geneva, Switzerland. The institute was formed last year with a $100 million donation from Hansjörg Wyss. And though it has gathered some detractors, the European Union’s Human Brain Project, launched two years ago as a collaborative effort to advance efforts to understand the brain, is still on tap to offer €50 million per year in funding from the EU plus another €50 million in partnering projects from member states. The critics, ironically, have come from some in the European neuroscience community, who worry that the program has become too unwieldy to produce meaningful results.

It will be a good day in the U.S. when neurotechnology researchers complain that there’s too much funding. Until that time comes, we should exploit these funding opportunities before they dry up.

James Cavuoto

Editor and Publisher

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