MINNEAPOLIS, Oct. 17, 2023 – The American Brain Foundation has launched a $10 million cross-disciplinary research initiative that transcends traditional research and philanthropy boundaries by bringing together nonprofit organizations, pharmaceutical and biotech investors, philanthropists, and researchers. The initiative will provide funding for research by top neuroscientists to investigate the role of neuroinflammation in a wide range of brain diseases, both neurologic and psychiatric, including conditions as disparate as Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia, long COVID-19, and autism. The research initiative is part of the American Brain Foundation’s existing Cure One, Cure Many program, which promotes innovative, cross-cutting approaches to brain disease diagnosis and treatment.
There are over 600 known brain diseases, and neuroinflammation plays a role in nearly all of them—yet researchers still understand very little about how this common immune response contributes to the development of neurologic disorders. This large-scale, multi-phased initiative will support research to better understand how neuroinflammation acts as an underlying mechanism across nearly all brain diseases and affects people of all ages.
Unprecedented Cross-Industry Collaboration
The American Brain Foundation is spearheading an unprecedented cross-industry collaboration between scientists, pharmaceutical organizations, venture and private philanthropists, and patient advocacy and nonprofit organizations like the National MS Society, the Encephalitis Society, the NFL Players Association, Gates Ventures and the WoodNext Foundation.
“The NFLPA proudly joins hands with the American Brain Foundation in advancing this extraordinary $10 million neuroinflammation initiative,” said Dr. Thom Mayer, medical director for the NFL Players Association. “We are proud to be part of this historic collaboration, uniting diverse stakeholders to tackle the impact of neuroinflammation on brain health. Together, we aim to improve diagnosis, prevention, treatment, and ultimately discover cures for these conditions.”
The American Academy of Neurology, the American Brain Foundation’s key research partner, will have a central role in the vetting of applications and selecting awardees. Chairing the initiative is Dr. Stephen Hauser, American Brain Foundation board member and director of UCSF Weill Institute for Neurosciences.
“Bringing together partners from so many different fields is the fastest, most innovative way to drive forward innovative research and harness the potential of the immune system to treat, repair, and even cure some of the most devastating brain diseases and disorders,” said Dr. Hauser. “The research funded by the initiative will impact diseases as widespread and different as Parkinson’s, encephalitis, multiple sclerosis (MS), Alzheimer’s, brain trauma, autism, and others.”
This large-scale, coordinated effort to support research from a wide diversity of partners and donors demonstrates both the range of concern about the impact of neuroinflammation on brain health and its significance as an emerging public health issue.
“In recent years there has been an increasing interest in neuroinflammation, the role it has to play in the brain, and whether it can be a catalyst in our understanding of so many other diseases and disorders that we know so little about,” said Dr. Ava Easton, chief executive of the Encephalitis Society. “Taking a global and collaborative approach is both bold and forward-thinking. By coming together, investing in research, and improving our knowledge of neuroinflammation, we will improve diagnosis and prevention, discover new treatments, and, crucially, find cures.”
Inflammation is the immune system’s natural response to injury, illness, and infection. Neuroinflammation—an inflammatory immune response in the brain and spinal cord—plays a role in brain health at all stages of life, from fetal development to aging, and contributes to the formation of nearly every brain disease.
Understanding both the protective and detrimental effects of neuroinflammation will allow doctors to more precisely target diseases as varied as Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, stroke, Parkinson’s disease, ALS, MS, encephalitis, and COVID-19-associated brain disease. Together, these diseases affect 60% of the U.S. population and at least 3 billion people worldwide, and they attack the essence of what makes us human: thought, speech, emotion, and movement.
“We believe in the ‘Cure One, Cure Many’ ethos of the American Brain Foundation,” said donors from a private family foundation that made a $2.5 million donation to the initiative. “This is why we felt it was important to make an investment in the innovative neuroinflammation initiative, which will shed light on a mechanism that is present in almost every brain disease and neurologic condition.
Driving Research Advancements Across Multiple Brain Diseases
The American Brain Foundation will make phase 1 grants from an initial pool of $5 million in 2025 as it raises an additional $5 million for phase 2 grants. Phase 2 will be an opportunity for the Foundation and its partners to fund new projects and to provide follow-up funding to the most promising Phase 1 projects to advance translation.
“We are very pleased to support this novel initiative, which has the potential to uncover common mechanisms across many different brain diseases and disorders of the nervous system, including multiple sclerosis,” said Dr. Bruce Bebo, executive vice president of research at the National MS Society. “This venture holds promise for identifying new pathways to stop destructive immune activity in millions of people living with these disorders.”
The American Brain Foundation will begin soliciting research proposals for the neuroinflammation initiative in spring 2024, and research will begin in 2025. To learn more about the neuroinflammation initiative and other currently funded research, visit AmericanBrainFoundation.org.
About the American Brain Foundation
The American Brain Foundation promotes and invests in research across the whole spectrum of brain diseases and disorders knowing that when we find a cure for one brain disease, we will find cures for many. Our holistic approach focuses on building bridges between different brain diseases to break new ground in both research and application.