The University of Virginia Brain Institute was founded in the Spring of 2016 as part of the Cornerstone Plan, with the mission to create a network of closely interacting basic, translational, data and clinical neuroscientists at multiple schools at UVA to address key problems in neuroscience for the benefit of society.
UVA Brain draws upon talented faculty and students across the University to develop better methods for understanding the brain; seek new ways to prevent, treat, and cure brain diseases and injury; and teach what they have learned.
“We are building on broad strength and recent breakthroughs at UVA in several areas related to brain science and education,” explains UVA Brain Director Jaideep Kapur, MD, a world-renown epilepsy physician-scientist. The institute focuses teams in key areas: brain disorders like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, epilepsy, autism, and traumatic brain injury (TBI); neuroimmunology; sensory biology; and integrative neuroscience research.
How will it work? Consider traumatic brain injury, Kapur explains. At UVA, a mechanical engineer studies the impact of injury on the mechanics of the brain. A sports medicine researcher looks to distinguish between minor and serious injuries on the playing field. A neuropsychologist studies TBI’s effects on mental capacity and behavior in order to influence health policy.
“Neuro research has often been performed alone in small labs. When you bring these people together to share what they have learned, we have a much better chance of understanding the impact of these injuries on patients and how best to treat, or even prevent, them in the future,” he says.
“The creation of this second pan-University institute shows how the Cornerstone Plan is continuing to shape UVA’s academic and research enterprise as we embark on the University’s third century,” UVA President Teresa A. Sullivan said. “While drawing together existing strengths in schools and units across Grounds, this institute will create new, unified momentum in brain study at UVA.”
“The biggest, most important and challenging questions and problems society faces cannot be solved within the constraints of any single discipline,” Thomas C. Katsouleas, UVA’s executive vice president and provost said. “Such challenges require big thinking by top scholars who can bring to bear expertise from a variety of areas. That is the raison d’etre for the Pan-U Institutes in the Cornerstone Plan, and UVA Brain is a perfect example.”
The Cornerstone Plan
The first strategy of Pillar 2 of the Cornerstone Plan states "The University will leverage current talent and new faculty hiring opportunities to focus research on those intellectual and social challenges where it can have the most impact. As part of this effort, the University will develop several cross-Grounds institutes that address key issues and provide valuable educational opportunities." The University has established 4 Pan-University Institutes as part of Pillar 2 of the Cornerstone Plan:
- The Data Science Institute
- The Brain Institute
- The Global Infectious Diseases Institute
- The Environmental Resilience Institute
- The Brain Institute was granted an initial $1 million internal award and will continue to grow through new grants and philanthropy.
- In June of 2017, the University's Strategic Investment Fund invested $15.7 million in advanced brain research.