College of Liberal Arts

UT Austin Joins $17 Million National Initiative to Combat Traumatic Brain Injury

Wed, Oct 1, 2014

AUSTIN, Texas — The Department of Defense has awarded $17 million to 11 U.S. public and private institutions — including The University of Texas at Austin — to support advances in traumatic brain injury research.

This unprecedented public-private partnership aims to drive the development of better-run clinical trials, with the goal of developing the first successful treatments for traumatic brain injury. The condition affects athletes and combat veterans, as well as millions of other people.

The five-year award, officially launched Oct. 1, brings together leading academic clinician-scientists with innovative industry leaders in biotechnology and imaging technology, with patient advocacy organizations, and with philanthropies.

UT Austin psychology professors Alex Valadka and David Schnyer will join the national team of researchers in collecting a broad range of long-term data from existing studies and databases, and integrating these into a dataset that can be analyzed for traumatic brain injury associations and causes in a way that has never before been possible. The principal investigator overseeing the project is Dr. Geoffrey Manley, chief of neurosurgery at San Francisco General Hospital.

The funding will support Valadka and Schnyer’s participation in a multisite longitudinal study (TRACK-TBI) designed to collect clinical, advanced imaging, genetic, proteomic and neuropsychological data on traumatic brain injury. The collaboration demonstrates the ground-breaking research partnerships that UT Austin frequently develops with the private sector.

“It is an honor to be a part of this critical endeavor lead by Dr. Geoffrey Manley and his team at UCSF and supported by the Defense Department, National institutes of Health, General Electric and Seattle’s One Mind,” says Schnyer.

The research collaborators will work directly with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to come up with better methods for selecting patients for clinical trials and better ways to measure patient outcomes that may lead to the identification of effective traumatic brain injury treatments.

Each year more than 2.5 million people in the United States seek medical care for traumatic brain injuries that arise when blows to the body or nearby explosions cause the brain to collide with the inside of the skull. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 2 percent of the U.S. population lives with disabilities caused by traumatic brain injuries, at an annual cost of about $77 billion. No treatment has proved to be effective.

The new research initiative, called the TBI Endpoints Development (TED) Award, is designed to overcome the difficulty in demonstrating the effectiveness of drugs and medical devices by actively involving the FDA in clinical-trial design from the outset.

Image: flickr Creative Commons--Allan Ajifo

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