Concussion and similar traumatic brain injuries (TBI) are a big public health problem in the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that some 1.7 million Americans suffer from a TBI every year. Prompt diagnosis and response can help prevent and mitigate serious injury, yet many victims do not lose consciousness or show acute signs of trouble.
GE, the National Football League, and Under Armour launched today a $60 million partnership designed to speed up diagnosis and improve treatment for mild traumatic brain injuries and stimulate new research and innovation in the field.
“GE is a leader in developing sophisticated diagnostic imaging technology, but for all the advances in science, our knowledge of the brain is far behind what we know of nearly every other organ in the body,” said Jeff Immelt, GE chairman and CEO. “With this partnership, we will advance our research 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.”
Immelt said that advancing brain science will help families everywhere.
“Jeff and I have had many conversations over the years about business and the game we both love – football,” said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. He said that the NFL has made “tremendous progress in making the game safer and more exciting,” but “we know we have more work to do.”
The partnership, called Brain Health Initiative, has two core parts. The first is a four-year, $40 million R&D program looking for the key MRI biomarkers in the brain that signal concussion, help improve diagnosis, and guide therapy.
The partners also launched a two-year open innovation challenge that will offer up to $20 million in research and technology funding to better understand, diagnose and protect against traumatic brain injury. “GE is investing in research and development to fast-track advancement in head health,” said Sue Siegel, CEO of GE healthymagination. “Through our research partnership and open innovation challenge, we hope to stimulate the broader ecosystem of scientists, engineers, mathematicians, computer scientists, entrepreneurs, and innovators worldwide to bring their talents to this effort and accelerate the current understanding of brain trauma and improve diagnostic tools.”
The partners have picked a nine-member medical advisory board to guide the research. Board member Dr. Geoff Manley, chief of neurosurgery at San Francisco General Hospital and professor at the University of California San Francisco, said that traumatic brain injury was “one of the greatest unmet medical needs of our time.”
Manley said that “a better understanding of the molecular, physiological, behavioral and biomechanical changes that occur shortly after a traumatic event is needed to reliably diagnose the types of changes that are difficult to identify using current technologies.”
The innovation challenge is now open. Enter your proposals at www.NFLGEBrainChallenge.com.