Fattah Neuroscience Initiative Advances with President's Signature

Mar 26, 2013, 16:57 ET from Office of Congressman Chaka Fattah

WASHINGTON, March 26, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Fattah Neuroscience Initiative (FNI), which is designed to make game-changing progress in the understanding of and therapies for brain development, cognition, disease and injury, has achieved a significant new accomplishment today as President Obama signed legislation to engage the private sector more fully in brain science and therapy development.

Language authored by Congressman Chaka Fattah (D-PA-02) and signed by President Barack Obama, is the latest in a series of steps by the legislator to encourage the pharmaceutical industry to invest in brain research and new drug development. The language is contained in the broad spending plan that was signed today (H.R. 933, the Continuing Appropriations Act). 

In the new law the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) is directed to "work with all relevant stakeholders to consider how incentives could hasten the development of new prevention and treatment options for neurological diseases and disorders, and to recommend options for such incentives."

This is the second major installment of Fattah's commitment to bring neuroscience to its rightful prominence in the nation's scientific research agenda.  "The educational, health and economic benefits of these policies will last far into the century for individuals, families and the country as a whole," Fattah said.

President Obama signed earlier language authored by Fattah in December, 2011, that for the first time coordinated multi-agency neuroscience research under the umbrella of the White House OSTP. This collaboration is now the Interagency Working Group on Neuroscience (IWGN), which is due to issue its final report in June.

Fattah, Congress' Senior Democrat for science funding, laid the groundwork for an increased role by the pharmaceutical industry in neuroscience research with a visit to Boston last June. He met with Massachusetts Commonwealth officials, leaders at Pfizer, and prominent neuroscientists at Harvard University to explore Fattah's idea to adapt the new Massachusetts Neuroscience Consortium as the model for a national public-private-nonprofit partnership on brain research. Fattah has also met with other industry leaders, including Ken Frazier, CEO of Merck and Co. Inc.

During a country-wide "listen and learn" tour, Fattah has observed neuroscience labs and patient care facilities and conferred with researchers, patient advocates and government officials whose agencies invest in significant neuroscience research. Last week Fattah met with Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki where the Congressman raised important issues around epilepsy centers of excellence, traumatic brain injury and veterans' mental health.

Fattah has also been a major proponent of brain mapping and made it a significant element of the FNI.  Those efforts resulted in the President's inclusion of the initiative in the State of the Union.  This project has the potential to exponentially increase our understanding of how the brain works, down to the smallest level.  Compared to the Human Genome Project, humans could understand for the first time the role of individual neurons in controlling our thoughts, movements and ability to perceive the world – all creating invaluable insights for the treatment of devastating disease and optimization of healthy brain development.

Like the IWGN housed at the White House, other agencies under Fattah's jurisdiction are fully engaged in ambitious brain research.  For example, the National Science Foundation recently published a solicitation for research proposals "with the potential to transform neuroscience and cognitive science....(and) accelerate new integrative research across disciplines."

This news comes in advance of the President's Budget submission, which is expected to propose new Fattah Neuroscience Initiative investments and promising international collaborations to scale up domestic research efforts.

SOURCE Office of Congressman Chaka Fattah