Barack Obama has launched an ambitious plan to map the human brain for the first time, in an attempt to seek vital clues for treating diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
The Brain Initiative (Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies) will launch with $100m of federal funding, and there are hopes that it could create thousands of jobs in spinoff scientific and technological enterprises.
The funding – a tiny fraction of the $2.7bn that the Human Genome Project cost US taxpayers between 1990 and 2005 – will come from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the National Science Foundation.
The initial funding is enough to jumpstart the project, but it will have to attract a great deal more cash if it is to do all that the president and NIH hope.
Launching the initiative at the White House on Tuesday, Obama called on companies, research universities, foundations, and philanthropists to join in one of what he has identified as the “grand challanges” of the 21st century. Obama pointed to the long-term benefits for science, the economy and the human race as a whole of these huge scientific endeavours.
“Imagine if no family had to feel helpless watching a loved one disappear behind the mask of Parkinson’s, or struggle in the grip of epilepsy,” he said.