UM Brain Endowment Bank Receives NIH Contract to Establish National Brain and Tissue Biorepository

The University of Miami Brain Endowment Bank will receive up to $8 million from a National Institutes of Health contract to centralize this research resource and advance studies of brain diseases in the United States.

The award, lasting up to eight years, underscores the growing importance of studying neurological and psychiatric disorders and the significant national standing of the Miller School program, led by Deborah C. Mash, Ph.D., professor of neurology and molecular and cellular pharmacology.

The new initiative, a joint effort of the National Institute of Mental Health, the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, and the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, aims to improve the support of brain banks, facilitate access to tissue by researchers and better educate the public about the need for donated tissue for research.

“The Miller School of Medicine is really poised to do this,” Mash said, “because our Brain Bank has always believed in providing tissue specimens to medical researchers nationwide to support academic missions and America’s engine of discovery.”

Established in 1987, the Brain Endowment Bank is one of the largest in the U.S., with a biorepository of more than 2,000 brains and an additional 500 living donors who have registered to donate their brains upon their death.

With this announced award comes major changes to how brain banks are funded and operated. The Miller School’s Brain Endowment Bank will be one of five NIH Brain and Tissue Repositories, which will establish best practice protocols and quality standards for acquiring, processing and storing collected tissue donated for research and coordinate the effort to provide tissues to qualified scientists and doctors.

The goal is to advance research in the brain diseases that affect millions of Americans, including neurological disorders (Parkinson’s disease, ALS and traumatic brain injury), neurodevelopmental disorders (autism and related brain disorders) and neuropsychiatric or mental health disorders (schizophrenia, depression and bipolar disorder).

While research studies are advancing new discoveries, there are too few brains donated to support the research.

Mash credits Miller School Dean Pascal J. Goldschmidt, M.D., Senior Vice President for Medical Affairs, for his leadership and support in recognizing the importance of establishing a tissue donation program to support this new NIH mission. “Thanks to Dean Goldschmidt,” Mash said, “we have a state-of-art location at the UM Life Science & Technology Park that allows us to work closely with organ donation programs and our collaborators at the UM Tissue Bank.”

The Miami Brain Bank was well positioned to be a national NIH-funded biorepository because of its work with the University of Miami Tissue Bank, led by H. Thomas Temple, M.D., professor and vice chair of orthopedics. Brain and tissue banks are required to support genetic studies, biomarker discovery and new medication development.

The Brain Endowment Bank and Tissue Bank programs have had wide outreach over the years supporting the wishes of donors and their families to advance medical research as their final gift.

“This award recognizes the talent and years of expertise we have in the brain tissue collection and preservation field,” said Goldschmidt. “Research in the neurosciences will continue to be a top priority, and the Miller School is clearly leading the way with the unique expertise of the Brain Bank’s director, Deborah Mash.”

Mash foresees the new NIH oversight structure and contract award accelerating discoveries. “For the first time, we have the tools to study the brain using modern genomic and high throughput technology. We can ask the complex questions and we’ll be able to get brain donors to support the new mission of research targeted to brain diseases that affect millions of children and adults.”

For more information or to become a donor visit the Brain Bank website, or call 1-800-UM-BRAIN.

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