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$4.5 million in seed grants awarded to UT BRAIN researchers

AUSTIN – Forty-five new research teams from across the University of Texas System have been awarded $100,000 seed grants each as part of a UT System initiative to jump-start multi-disciplinary and innovative research on the human brain.

A total of $4.5 million was awarded through the UT System Neuroscience and Neurotechnology Research Institute, which was created by the Board of Regents in 2014 to facilitate team approaches to brain research and leverage the broad scientific expertise and resources available throughout the UT System.    

The UT System effort is aligned with the national BRAIN (Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies) initiative, which was established to revolutionize understanding of the brain and help treat, cure and prevent neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s Disease and autism.

The 45 UT BRAIN seed grant recipients were selected from among 158 proposals, which were submitted and reviewed by more than 100 faculty researchers from institutions outside of Texas. A list of the 45 grant recipients can be found on the UT System Neuroscience website.

These recipients formed research teams with faculty members from different disciplines and institutions – a dynamic encouraged by the UT System – which represents a cultural shift toward solving complex neuroscience challenges, said Tom Jacobs, Ph.D., UT System associate vice chancellor for federal relations and chairman of the UT BRAIN Review Committee.

“Awardees reached out to experts in other research fields and at other institutions to explore new ideas on how to advance BRAIN and neuroscience research,” Jacobs said. “The UT BRAIN teams have proposed potentially groundbreaking ideas, and many are poised to compete for sustaining their research through external sources.”

Andrew Dunn, Ph.D., a seed grant winner and a professor and interim chairman of the Biomedical Engineering Department at UT Austin, said he’s hoping to design a new microscope that can better show the individual dendritic spines in brain tissue. Dendritic spines play a key role in learning and memory, and a better understanding of their basic neurobiology could lead to better treatment for cognitive disorders like ADHD, autism and Fragile X syndrome.

“This seed grant will allow us to establish a new collaboration between two labs with expertise in biomedical engineering and neuroscience,” Dunn said. “It also will allow us to demonstrate the proof of concept of this new imaging technique and obtain preliminary results for future grant proposals.”

The UT System Neuroscience and Neurotechnology Research Institute plans to award another round of seed grants in 2016. Updates and announcements will be made on the UT System Neuroscience website and neUro Transmitter blog.

“Several technical advances in BRAIN research have been made recently and the momentum for additional federal support is increasing,” Jacobs said, noting that the National Institutes for Health is planning to release four BRAIN funding opportunities this fall. “This is an exciting time for neuroscience research.”

About The University of Texas System
Educating students, providing care for patients, conducting groundbreaking basic, applied and clinical research, and serving the needs of Texans and the nation for more than 130 years, The University of Texas System is one of the largest public university systems in the United States. With 14 institutions and an enrollment of more than 217,000, the UT System confers more than one-third of the state’s undergraduate degrees, educates almost two-thirds of the state’s health care professionals annually and accounts for almost 70 percent of all research funds awarded to public institutions in Texas. The UT System has an annual operating budget of $16.9 billion (FY 2016) including $3 billion in sponsored programs funded by federal, state, local and private sources. With about 20,000 faculty – including Nobel laureates – and more than 70,000 health care professionals, researchers, student advisors and support staff, the UT System is one of the largest employers in the state.

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