The importance of computing power to the BRAIN Initiative has been clear since President Obama unveiled the plan last year. Each update since then has reiterated the role of technology, with the latest document from the BRAIN working group giving a more detailed picture of how computer modeling could enable the project.
Use of theory, modeling and statistics to understand the brain is one of 8 priority areas listed by the working group--which consists of U.S. academics and public officials--in a report to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The report details how the working group foresees the BRAIN Initiative developing over the next decade and gives an estimate how much it will cost. NIH committed $40 million to the project in fiscal 2014, but the work envisaged by the working group will cost a lot more.
Spending is forecast to rise over the next few years, eventually flattening out in 2021 at an annual outlay of $500 million a year. Total spend over the next decade could hit $4.5 billion, a figure that reflects the ambition of the project. "New technologies will be invented, new industries spawned. This is a big challenge. It won't be fast, it won't be easy, it won't be cheap," NIH director Francis Collins said on a conference call attended by Bloomberg.
The pricing of the project is intended as a rough estimate and the report gives little idea of how much the working group recommends allocating to each goal. If the pricing proves accurate and is approved, the project could make a lot of cash available to biotech IT projects. The report calls for new methods of analysis to turn ever-growing databases into insights, a capability that will be particularly valuable once the imaging techniques planned by the working group cause the information firehouse to expand further still.