Many of us know a family member, friend or colleague who has suffered from a brain disease.
According to the latest figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, stroke and Alzheimer’s disease are the fifth and sixth leading causes of death in the United States—accounting for more than 133,000 and 94,000 deaths in 2014, respectively. Though stroke has caused fewer deaths in recent decades because of improved emergency treatment and prevention, Alzheimer’s disease is rapidly becoming a more common cause of death as the population of the United States ages.
Developing more effective treatments for these types of diseases is one of the goals of a new, multidisciplinary undertaking at the University: The UVA Brain Institute.
The new institute will help UVA researchers develop collaborative research projects to compete for national grants. The Institute will help the University recruit top researchers who study the brain and its diseases and injuries. In addition, the institute will educate and train undergraduate, graduate, medical, and post-doctoral fellows in fields studying the brain, and will encourage philanthropy from potential donors who have an interest in improving brain health and treatment.
Dr. Jaideep Kapur, Eugene Meyer III Professor of Neuroscience and Neurology and a leading epilepsy researcher and physician, will direct the Brain Institute. With his leadership, the institute will draw on the expertise of more than 80 current faculty members from four schools and a dozen departments around the University—including new faculty hires in the neurosciences, biomedical data sciences, traumatic brain injury and autism.
Understanding and treating brain diseases and injury are already among the University’s research and clinical strengths. This new institute will further elevate this strength and push for greater scientific, diagnostic and treatment breakthroughs to improve society and the lives of those who suffer from these disorders. The institute will elevate brain study at UVA from prominence to pre-eminence.
The University’s investment in this project aligns with recent prioritization of brain research by the federal and state governments. In 2013, President Barack Obama launched a 10-year brain research initiative designed “to revolutionize our understanding of the human mind and uncover new ways to treat, prevent and cure brain disorders like Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia, autism, epilepsy and traumatic brain injury.” And last year, the Commonwealth of Virginia launched a similar effort to organize and stimulate neuroscience research at its major research universities with a goal to establish Virginia as the “brain state.”
Working in the context of these existing efforts, the UVA Brain Institute will develop productive public-private partnerships, including those with other universities, the pharmaceutical industry, government agencies such as the Department of Defense and other key collaborators.
As part of the Cornerstone Plan, this is the second cross-Grounds institute in our effort to establish up to five institutes dedicated to tackling some of society’s most difficult and pressing challenges. The Data Science Institute, established in 2014, is focused on big data management, analytics, research and education.
As the University prepares to begin its bicentennial commemorations next year, these institutes and other academic and research initiatives at UVA are helping us shape the intellectual future of Thomas Jefferson’s University for its third century of excellence. Through our newest institute, we have the potential in the years ahead to create greater understanding of the human brain while helping thousands of people who suffer from its diseases.
President Teresa A. Sullivan