NFL and General Electric launch $60m brain injury research initiative

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The National Football League (NFL) in America and General Electric (GE) have teamed up to launch the Head Health Initiative – a four-year, $60 million collaboration to speed diagnosis and improve treatment for mild traumatic brain injury. The goal of the research, guided by healthcare experts, is to improve the safety of athletes, members of the military and society overall.

The initiative includes a four-year, $40 million R&D programme to evaluate and develop next-generation imaging technologies to improve diagnosis that would allow for targeting treatment therapy for patients with mild traumatic brain injury.

In addition the NFL, GE and Under Armour launched a two-year open innovation challenge to invest up to $20 million in research and technology to better understand, diagnose and protect against mild traumatic brain injury.

GE chairman and CEO Jeff Immelt said: ‘With this initiative, we will advance our research [into studying the brain] and apply our learning to sports-related concussions, brain injuries suffered by members of the military and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.’

NFL commissioner, Roger Goodell, said, ‘Our collaboration with GE and Under Armour and the launch of the innovation challenges puts us on an accelerated path to progress with experienced scientists, academics and entrepreneurs dedicated to developing game-changing technologies that will benefit athletes, the military and all members of society.’

The research will take a whole brain approach to determine the key Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) biomarkers for potential diagnosis, outcome prediction, and therapy management for patients with mild traumatic brain injury. The research study will be guided by an advisory board consisting of a cross-disciplinary team of medical professionals from various institutions.

In addition to the research programme, the NFL is partnering with GE and Under Armour to launch the Head Health Challenge, which has two focus areas: methods for diagnosis and prognosis of brain injuries, and approaches for preventing and identifying brain injuries.

The organisations are pledging to find and fund ideas that accelerate solutions for brain protection. The challenge fund could invest up to $20 million.

GE and the NFL are currently inviting proposals for the first focus area, for technologies and imaging biomarkers that address identification and management of sub-clinical and mild traumatic brain injury. Multiple cash awards with a cumulative total value of up to $10 million will be made, along with the possibility of future partnership and collaboration with GE.

Proposals for the second focus area – for new materials and technologies that can protect the brain from traumatic injury and new tools for tracking head impacts in real time – will be taken in the autumn of 2013.

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