GE, NFL to pour $50M into concussion imaging tech

GE and the NFL will invest in concussion-detecting imaging technology.--Courtesy of NIH

General Electric ($GE) and the NFL will jointly invest at least $50 million in a new effort to develop concussion-detecting imaging technology. They'll also focus on coming up with better ways to protect the brain from injury in the first place, in a partnership detailed in The New York Times over the Super Bowl weekend.

The deal makes sense for GE, whose GE Healthcare division is already a major player with MRI, PET and CT diagnostic imaging equipment. But as the NYT article notes, the industry hasn't widely focused imaging technology investment on concussions or other traumatic brain injuries. Alzheimer's and multiple sclerosis are among major diseases that get all of the imaging attention. And so this deal stands to address a major unmet need.

GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell

Of course, the NFL also stands to gain in the face of increased attention on the damage concussion has caused current and former players. The NYT story explains that this is the NFL's biggest private industry partnership to date focused on addressing player safety. Also, it's the kind of deal that springs from quiet conversations between CEOs. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who wants many companies to work with the NFL to boost safety research efforts, explained the idea to GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt last fall. Immelt, as the story notes, was once an offensive tackle at Dartmouth, and pledged support.

Their arrangement calls for at least $30 million to focus on developing imaging equipment specific to concussions and other kinds of head trauma, and they'll spend the money over four years. A second part of the deal is also important: GE will spend at least $20 million on a contest of sorts. The company will run an "innovation challenge," according to the story, to seek ideas from academics, entrepreneurs and others on how to improve helmets and other safety devices. GE will pick the winners from the best ideas, which get financing to bring those novel concepts to market.

- read The New York Times story (sub. req)

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