Europe Invests $1.4B to Create Detailed Brain Model


Researchers creating the world's most detailed model of the human brain to speed understanding of cognition and disease won a 10-year $1.4 billion award from the European Commission to support its work.

This article published with permission from The Burrill Report.

Researchers creating the world’s most detailed model of the human brain won a 10-year $1.4 billion (1 billion euros) award from the European Commission to support its work.

The Swiss-led Human Brain Project will reconstruct the brain, piece by piece, in digital supercomputer-based models and simulations with the ultimate goal of allowing neuroscientists to understand the role of genes, molecules, and cells in human cognition and behavior.

A medical information-processing platform built as part of the project will incorporate clinical data for use in modeling neurologic disease and its underlying mechanisms and to speed up the search for new treatments.

Estimated to cost $1.6 billion (1.2 billion euros) overall, the Human Brain Project will be hosted at the Swiss Supercomputing Centre in Lugano, Switzerland and led by Henry Markram, a professor at École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, one of the two Swiss Federal Institutes of Technology. Scientists from 87 institutions, including North American and Japanese partners, will take part in the effort. U.S. scientists working on the project include faculty from Yale, Cornell and the Universities of California, Indiana, Pennsylvania and Tennessee, among others.

The project is one of two long-term, ambitious scientific efforts to win backing in the Future and Emerging Technologies Flagship Initiative, the largest single science competition held in Europe to date. The other award will fund an investigation of the unique properties and uses of grapheme, a revolutionary carbon-based material.

“Europe’s position as a knowledge superpower depends on thinking the unthinkable and exploiting the best ideas,” says Neelie Kroes, vice president of the European Commission. “This multibillion competition rewards home-grown scientific breakthroughs and shows that when we are ambitious we can develop the best research in Europe.”

In addition to its medical goals, scientists hope that the 10-year effort will yield progress in overcoming fundamental limits on the energy-efficiency, reliability and programmability of current technologies, clearing the road for systems with brain-like intelligence.

Copyright 2013 Burrill & Company. For more life sciences news and information, visit The Burrill Report.

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