Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News

MAY1 2015

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Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News | GENengnews.com | MAY 1, 2015 | 7 Alex Philippidis The human brain consists of about 100 bil- lion neurons, yet no one knows how many distinct types or shapes of those neurons ex- ist. Creating a framework for answering that basic question and many other, much more complex questions is among the goals of a new multi-institutional research effort. The project, called BigNeuron, aims to create reliable high-throughput and quantita- tive 3D reconstructions of the thousands of branches that make up individual neurons. It's a crucial step, say researchers, to ultimately understanding how the brain encodes infor- mation. To create the most reliable reconstruc- tions, BigNeuron's dozen mostly institutional partners will develop standards for defning the best algorithms and methods, then "bench- test" those algorithms on large-scale datasets. Hanchuan Peng, Ph.D., lead organizer of BigNeuron and associate investigator at the Allen Institute for Brain Science, which an- nounced the project, told GEN the neuron re- construction algorithms will be bench-tested by being ported onto a common platform so that they can be run with the same raw image input format and output reconstruction fle format, in a parallel and unbiased approach. "The bench testing will be done not only for a few images, but will be done against many single neuron image datasets contrib- uted worldwide from many research groups, for many different species as well as differ- ent brain regions. The analyses will be done jointly by the community," Dr. Peng said. BigNeuron intends to produce a large set of open-source, community-based tools for neuroscience studies, as well as standard- ized protocols for researchers to create their own neuron morphologies: "We'll focus on neuron reconstruction algorithms as well as neuron comparison and search tools. In brain research, these methods may [carry out] similar like gene sequencing techniques and sequence comparison/search tools for genome research," Dr. Peng added. Also envisioned among results by BigNeu- ron's partners are standardized protocols for researchers to create their own neuron mor- phologies, and a rich library of morphological feature defnitions and algorithms to provide a foundation of quality metrics and classif- cation organized in an openly available data- base of single neuron morphology data. Lining Up Funding BigNeuron's launch comes as interest in researching the human brain has grown enough in recent years to spawn two large- scale, public-private research efforts. In the U.S., the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative would see its funding bal- loon in President Barack Obama's proposed budget for the 2016 federal fscal year—to more than $300 million, from $200 million in the current fscal year, which ends Sep- tember 30. About half of BRAIN's FY 2016 funding would come from NIH at $150.7 million, nearly double this year's $81.4 mil- lion in FY 2015. How much funding BRAIN will actually see next year, and from what agency, de- pends on Congress. The chair of the House Labor-HHS Appropriations Subcommittee, Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK), last month warned NIH Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., that his agency can expect less than Obama proposed. NIH hopes to step up activity within and across four partner federal agencies in BRAIN—FDA, NSF, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), and Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA). Cross-agency efforts can be expected along the lines of the Collab- orative Research in Computational Neuro- science (CRCNS) program. NIH and NSF © 2015 Cell Signaling Technology, Inc. Cell Signaling Technology, and CST are trademarks of Cell Signaling Technology, Inc. 15PADINDUPHAR0001ENG_00 DRUG DISCOVERY AND DEVELOPMENT Finding cures starts with research tools that actually work ... • Proteomic products and services • Focused product portfolio • Products tested for specifcity and sensitivity • Antibodies rigorously tested across a wide range of research applications • Custom formulations • cGMP compliant ASRs* • Bulk orders and lot reservations Learn more at: www.cellsignal.com/ drugdiscovery • C U R R E N T G O O D M A N U F A C T U R I N G P R A C T I C E c GMP * Custom formulations of certain monoclonal antibodies can be produced by CST in compliance with FDA regulations governing ASRs. Such products would be classifed as Analyte Specifc Reagents. Analytical and performance characteristics are not established. All other products are for Research Use Only. Not For Use In Diagnostic Procedures. See Brain Projects on page 8 Brain Projects Get Researchers Thinking Big EXCLUSIVE BigNeuron, BRAIN, and Europe's HBP Aim to Find the Inner Workings of the Mind

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