By Susan Belknapp, California Business Journal.
An alliance between some of the world’s foremost physicians, scientists, engineers, associations, government and non-Governmental Agencies dedicated to rapid introduction of game-changing therapeutics and diagnostics for brain and spine disorders has been formed by the Brain Mapping Foundation (BMF) and the Society for Brain Mapping and Therapeutics (SBMT) over the last 16 years.
Los Angeles-based SBMT was founded by a neuroscientist Dr. Babak Kateb, chairman and CEO, in 2004. The goal of the organization is to break down boundaries of science, technology, medicine, art and healthcare policy by uniting a multi-disciplinary network of neuroscientists, neurologists, neurosurgeons, engineers, radiologists, oncologists, psychiatrists, psychologists, spine surgeons, venture capital and angel investors.
Partnerships with NASA, Johnson Space Center’s Mars Mission and Human Research Project, National Labs, DOD, Department of the Veterans Affair and investment have resulted into a better data sharing, collaboration and creating an ecosystem, which could cultivate pioneering ideas to lifesaving therapeutics as a new startup in the U.S. “This is truly a paradigm shift in the research and treatment for patients with brain and spine disorders,” Dr. Kateb says.
“The society has been advocating for pioneering policies such as President Obama’s BRAIN Initiative, Neuroscience-20 of the G20 summit and now Brain Technology and Innovation Park (BTIP), which could turn all VA hospitals and their affiliate Universities across the U.S. to centers for neurotech innovation,” he adds.
SBMT is developing treatments and cross-pollinating ideas through the membership of scientists, physicists, physicians, neurosurgeons, radiologists, neurologists and spine surgeons.
Benefits of shared information
Most initiatives and partnerships fail due to lack of data sharing on-time and efficiently.
The National Institute of Health particularly doesn’t incentivize such activities because its grant system puts scientists against each other to compete for grants while diseases killing patients.
SBMT and BMF have tried to change that by facilitating global partnership, creating a unified front for brain and spine innovation and encouraging scientists to share reliable data on time with each other.
“I have been so impressed with the way the society breaks down silos,” says Dr. Jeffery Wang, 16th President of SBMT, professor of orthopedic surgery and Co-Director of Spine Institute at USC-Keck School of Medicine. “I’m a spine surgeon but much of the technology used in brain mapping can be used in the spine and vice-versa. I’ve done spine research for years and my colleagues have done neurological or brain-disorder research but this collaborative approach has helped me start thinking in a completely different way by taking applications from other disciplines and apply it to our relevant field with open collaboration.”
What are some of the technologies developed by innovators such as NASA?
“Space exploration requires miniaturization of technologies because you cannot send large cargoes to the space,” Dr. Kateb says. “Also, you don’t want to contaminate the space so all space ships are sterile and use noninvasive technology to understand and explore galaxies and plants. In neurosurgery all of the above applies. We have used infrared thermography and ultraviolet or photonic imaging, which is used to detect supernovas to detect brain cancer and abnormalities intra-operatively.”
“We are now working with other federal labs to develop a new generation of biomaterials for the spine and using Artificial intelligence (AI) and Predictive Modeling to understand the patterns of disease progress and drug effect.”
SBMT is “laser focused” on fast tracking the innovation and translation of such technologies into medicine and help with integration and commercialization the innovation by engaging the investment bankers. This enables the organization to introduce new products to market and create many neuro-techs across the U.S. while addressing the neurological disorders.
The path from concept to commercialization
Dr. Vicky Yamamoto, a cancer scientist at Keck School of Medicine of USC in the department of otolaryngology/head and neck surgery, explains how the standard path starts with a clinical trial and from that, papers and grants are written and sent off to commercial entities.
“My group is in the process of submitting a grant for treating glioblastoma (GBM) brain tumors, which is one of the most malignant cancer tumors overall,” Dr. Yamamoto says. “We have gathered a team of scientists and clinicians, including nuclear radiation oncologists and radiologists. The beauty about this society is that we can have researchers and technicians from different backgrounds to collaborate and develop treatments.”
In addition to raising money through the foundation and fostering collaboration through the society, SBMT is also influencing policy. It has played an integral role in the Brain Research Advancing Innovative Neuro-technologies or BRAIN Initiative and Neuroscience-20 of the G20 summit.
“We promote global policy in neuroscience because it is a powerful way to effect major changes on a socioeconomics level,” Dr. Kateb says.
The importance of the Brain Technology and Innovation Park — and its impact on the California and the U.S. economy – was discussed by Drs. Michael Lekawa (UCI), Uttam Sinha (USC), Shri Narayanan (USC), Warren Boling (LLU), Dr. Yamamoto, Venkatraman Sadanand (LLU/SBMT), Arron Filler (Neurography Institute/SBMT) and Daniel Sipple (SBMT) at the Brain Mapping Day at the California Assembly on August 7th 2018, thanks to the visionary leadership of Assemblyman Ken Cooley. The initiative will bring together scientists and technologies from NASA and other past collaborators such as the Lawrence Livermore National Lab and bring it to clinical practice.
Dr. Kateb and his delegation educated the State Assembly about the importance of spending the funding for the Brain Technology Innovation Park, which will help further the results already being achieved by the SBMT. It will also help reduce the cost of healthcare when treatments are brought to market while increasing biotech jobs in California, he says.
Cost of Disease Burdens?
The SBMT’s created the NeuroScience-20 as a part of the G20 summit because the cause of the neuro-psychiatric disorders to the world economy will be close to $16 trillion dollars. In 2010, the mental disorders costs to the U.S. economy was estimated near 2.5 trillion dollars.
“Investment in innovation will enable us to curb such monumental costs, which is magnified if we include spine disorders costs in the overall healthcare costs,” Dr. Kateb says.
Different foundations have a way of rating the greatest disease burdens. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation contend that spine-related disorders are on the top of the list. Research shows that in the U.S., 25% of people within the working ages of 18 and 65 will become disabled in their lifetimes. This is particularly devastating because of those 25%, 70% will end up at the poverty level.
“Those are huge numbers. World leaders should be educated about such costs and can help minimize this result if they make investment in brain and spine innovation and technology a priority,” Dr. Wang says.
Another key initiative of SBMT is increasing the number of women and minorities in the scientific equation.
“At USC, we actively recruit females and minorities into our residency and science programs,” Dr. Wang says. “You must work at it or the numbers won’t move. We’ve seen it with other institutions – just opening up and ‘giving everyone a chance’ does not get the same results as active recruitment.”
Dr. Yamamoto agrees. Her department puts a high priority on outreach to students as young as high school age to empower them as they pursue careers in science and medicine.
“It is critical to engage women and minorities because this could bring a great diversity toward innovation and technology development and commercialization, which is ultimately will culminate into new therapeutics,” she says.
‘Brain and Spine Capital of the World’
California is the center of the world in biotech and device with Silicon Valley in the North and Orange County in the South, creating massive technological innovation and revenue on a worldwide scale.
The U.S. has all the scientific and academic components necessary to make the Brain Technology and Innovation Park (BTIP) “the Brain and Spine Capital of the World,” just as SBMT is proposing.
One of the first steps is making the Brain Technology Innovation Park a reality in Los Angeles, Dr. Kabek says.
To achieve these goals, “support of the private sector can be extremely beneficial but the state and federal government should put innovation and technology transfer on top of their agenda because this is where we can create millions of jobs locally, regionally and nationally and make sure the USA’s global economic health,” Dr. Kateb says.
SBMT and BMF are holding their 16th Annual World Congress at the LA Convention Center on March 15-17, 2019. The convention has 800 speakers and 12 keynotes including Nobel Laureate Eric Kandel, U.S. Army General James Murray, Assistant Secretary for Navy James Geurts, Director of LLNL William Goldstein, Deputy Director of Oak Ridge National Laboratory Paul Gilna, President of SBMT Jeff Wang, SBMT President Elect Saleem Abdulrauf, Chairman of Cellularity Bob Hariri, Stuart Hoffman from the VA Headquarters in D.C. and renowned Brain Health Endocrinologist Deepak Chopra.
The convention has a section on neurotech investment to support startups and will cover all neurological disorders.
Additionally, BMF has organized the First World Brian Expo in order to educate the public about the recent advances in neurological, spine and neuropsychiatric disorders. It is also holding its annual “The Oscars for Neuroscientists: Gathering for the Cure” black tie gala at the Intercontinental Hotel in Downtown LA on March 16th 2019 (6-8 pm cocktail/red-carpet and 9-11 pm the award banquet), recognizing pioneers in the field.
“Corporations can get involved by supporting all initiatives of the society and foundation, whether they are on the ballot or brought by legislation,” Dr. Kateb says. “Invest in the new products. Put priority on training employees about neuro-psychiatric disorders so they can be identified and treated.
“It all begins with support from legislators, corporations and the public. The collaborative efforts of the medical community are developing breakthroughs that can benefit everyone. With a greater involvement at all levels, we can help speed this progress.”
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[Tags: Brain Mapping Technology, Spine Technology, Brain and Spine Innovation.]