Brain disease project to get EU funds

Tue, Jan 29, 2013, 00:00

The European Commission will award €2 billion for research into brain disease and into the “miracle material” graphene, which could be used to make flexible electronic devices and lead to superfast internet speeds.

The funding will be distributed over 10 years, with more than half coming from the commission’s research funds and the rest from EU member countries and the private sector, officials said yesterday.

The recipients – the Human Brain Project and the graphene study – were chosen from 21 projects assessed since July 2010 by a group of scientists, academics and a Nobel prize winner.

They looked at research they considered would have the greatest impact on society and the economy.

‘Ambitious projects’

“The European Commission is supporting ambitious and risky projects which promise a big return in the long term,” the European Union’s executive body said in a statement.

The international Human Brain Project, based in Switzerland, uses supercomputers to understand brain activity, speed up diagnosis of brain diseases such as depression, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, and possibly develop treatments.

The project also aims to use the brain’s capacity to process signals from trillions of synapses – neural connections – as a model to develop computers which can do more with less energy consumption.

Referred to as a miracle material, graphene is a flexible sheet of carbon that can conduct electricity. Despite being just one atom thick, it is 100 times stronger than steel.

It could be used to make lighter aircraft, as well as flexible devices such as tablets and laptops and medical gadgets to carry cancer-fighting drugs into the body. Scientists have found the combination of graphene and metallic wires could speed up web communication by tens if not hundreds of times faster than the fastest internet cables. – (Reuters)