DOD enlists the University of Michigan for traumatic brain injury initiative

Kevin Ward

The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) has set its sights on developing traumatic brain injury (TBI) technology for a while now, doling out $15 million in contracts in 2014 to a company creating a device for the condition. In its latest move, the DOD is enlisting the University of Michigan for a new project aimed at addressing TBI through med tech.

Combat Casualty Care Research Program (CCCRP), a DOD subsidiary, and the University of Michigan Center for Integrative Research in Critical Care (MCIRCC) are teaming up for The Massey Foundation TBI Grand Challenge, an initiative that will award researchers funding to develop diagnostics, devices or technology for severe TBI. Project proposals will include solutions for the first 24 to 48 hours of care and will specifically target the "golden hour," a critical window immediately following injury that impacts patients' survival, the pair said in a statement.

Projects will receive up to $500,000 during a one-year timeframe and will be reviewed by a steering committee that includes researchers, doctors and scientists from the University of Michigan and neurotrauma leaders from the DOD. "The Department of Defense brings their own set of expertise and resources to help us get this research into both the civilian and non-civilian clinical setting," Kevin Ward, executive director of the MCIRCC, said in a statement.

The latest initiative addresses a serious health problem in the U.S. TBI is the fourth leading cause of death in the country with 52,000 fatalities a year, the University of Michigan pointed out. And about 2.5 million people got a TBI in 2010. The condition is especially prevalent in combat settings, and projects funded by the University of Michigan and the DOD will attack the issue head-on.

"We hope to support projects with follow-on funding specifically from the Department of Defense that prove they can be used by our medics in the field," Alicia Crowder, manager of the Neurotrama & Traumatic Brain Injury Portfolio for the CCCRP, said in a statement. "It's an exciting time for research and treatment of an injury that affects so many of our service members."

This is not the first time the DOD has stepped up for TBI research. Back in 2014, the agency awarded BrainScope three contracts totaling $15.9 million to flesh out its wearable Ahead system for TBI, building on a previous award from the DOD of $11.3 million. The funding seems to have paid off, as BrainScope won FDA clearance for its device a month later for adult patients with a potential mild traumatic brain injury.

- here's the statement