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Steven Kirsch

NPI Neuroscience Group Convenes Industry, Federal Agency Officials for BRAIN Initiative Update

The National Photonics Initiative (NPI), an alliance of top scientific societies uniting industry and academia to raise awareness of photonics, recently convened participants from across government and the photonics community for a successful discussion on progress on the President’s Brain Research through Advancing Innovating Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative.
More than 150 participants turned out for the panel hosted by the NPI Photonics Industry Neuroscience Group in San Francisco on February 14. Ned Talley, program director with the National Institutes of Health (NIH), told the spillover audience that not enough is known about how the brain works – yet – to meet major challenges facing the world in this century.
Launched in April 2013, the BRAIN Initiative aims to cultivate innovative technologies that can create a dynamic understanding of brain function and ultimately help researchers find new ways to treat, cure and even prevent brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, epilepsy and traumatic brain injury. Optics and photonics technologies such as sensors, lasers and imaging devices play a key role in the work of the BRAIN Initiative, including mapping brain function.
The initiative is a coordinated effort among NIH, the National Science Foundation (NSF), academia and industry, said speaker Noemie Levy, Senior Policy Advisor for Partnerships in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), “convening people who might not otherwise work together.” Other federal agencies including the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are also contributing to the initiative.
NPI Photonics Industry Neuroscience Group Chairman Tom Baer introduced what he called “a who’s who” of speakers from organizations working toward the initiative. The project’s wide-ranging partnership was reflected in the breadth of speakers at the event, which, along with Talley and Levy, included:

  • Mahmoud Fallahi, NSF Brain Program
  • Michael Lin, Johns Hopkins University
  • Mark Schnitzer, Stanford University
  • Arnd Krueger, Spectra-Physics
  • Stephanie Fullerton, Hamamatsu
  • Kunal Ghosh, Inscopix
  • James Sharp, Zeiss
  • Marco Arrigoni, Coherent, Inc.
Industry speakers stressed the role of collaboration in developing applications, including the work of scientific societies to move the conversations forward. “Thanks to the NPI, we have guidelines to help us consider lasers for specific needs,” said Coherent’s Arrigoni.
The NPI Photonics Industry Neuroscience Group – consisting of top US industry leaders in optics and photonics including Accumetra, LLC, Agilent, Applied Scientific Instrumentation, Coherent, Hamamatsu, Inscopix, Inc., Spectra-Physics and THORLABS – previously announced that it is committing upwards of $30 million in existing and future research and development (R&D) spending to advance optics and photonics technology in support of the BRAIN Initiative.

About the NPI: The National Photonics Initiative (NPI) is a collaborative alliance among industry, academia and government to raise awareness of photonics and the impact of photonics on our everyday lives; increase cooperation and coordination among US industry, government and academia to advance photonics-driven fields; and drive US funding and investment in areas of photonics critical to maintaining US economic competitiveness and national security. The initiative is being led by top scientific societies including the American Physical Society (APS), the IEEE Photonics Society, the Laser Institute of America (LIA), The Optical Society (OSA) and SPIE, the International Society for Optics and Photonics. For more information visit