The Centre for Brain Research was established as an autonomous, non-profit research organization in the Indian Institute of Science campus under the Karnataka Societies Registration Act of 1960, with a very generous gift from the Pratiksha Trust founded by Dr. Kris Gopalakrishnan (one of the co-founders of Infosys Limited) and Mrs. Sudha Gopalakrishnan. CBR is funded by philanthropy and receives research grants for specific projects from several granting agencies. The Pratiksha Trust has also provided funds for the construction of the state-of-art building for use by CBR within the IISc campus. The philanthropic gift by Dr. Gopalakrishnan is the largest support provided by an individual for scientific research in the history of India. This is a unique initiative in the current research environment in India that will help in conducting cutting edge research on aging brain and age-associated brain disorders.
Significant progress has been achieved world-wide in the past three decades in understanding the human brain function due to an ever growing community of researchers as well as unprecedented technical and technological innovations that have occurred. Most notable are the developments in molecular biology and brain imaging. These advanced tools have provided new windows into the functioning of the brain, resulting in neuroscience becoming one of the most rapidly developing scientific fields. Further, acknowledging the tremendous disease burden caused by neurodegenerative disorders and the paucity of treatments, several large scale efforts have been launched in both North America and Europe. These efforts have emphasized an integrative approach to understanding brain function using tools from molecular genetics to imaging and bringing together large groups with diverse expertise to address the complex challenges required to understand brain functioning.
At CBR, we develop and foster large scale focussed research programmes and build capacity for inter-disciplinary neuroscience research in the country that would set the stage for Indian scientists to contribute in a significant manner to the endeavour of understanding the aging brain and discovering rational therapies and cures for neurodegenrative disorders.
The mandate of CBR is to carry out transformational research to understand the functioning of the aging brain in health and disease. CBR has initiated comprehensive, long-term longitudinal studies of cognition, genetics and brain imaging in elderly population that includes patients as well as healthy individuals. The uniqueness of the Indian population provides an ideal basis for carrying out such studies to identify potential protective factors and risk factors.
The first of these longitudinal studies covers approximately 10,000 people above the age of 45 years from the Taluka of Srinivasapura (about 100 km from Bangalore). These individuals are being assessed in several interdisciplinary dimensions, periodically, as they age, ranging from cognition to imaging to genetics. A parallel study funded by the Tata Trusts is being carried out wherein approximately 1000 urban middle-class subjects living in Bangalore are assessed in a similar manner. These two studies are harmonized and they run in parallel. Our hope is that in the next few years, we will be able to discern the unique risk factors and protective factors that contribute to aging in these two populations.
CBR also spearheads the GenomeIndia project that is funded by the Department of Biotechnology of the Government of India. In this project, we have brought together 20 Institutions with the goal to carry out whole genome sequencing in order to catalogue the genetic diversity of this country. GenomeIndia is a step towards integrating genetic information into healthcare practice, leading to India specific precision medicine.
Kris Gopalakrishnan (Co-Founder, Infosys & Chairman, Axilor ventures): “The human brain is one of the world’s biggest mysteries, which is yet to be fully understood. By funding and creating this Centre with IISc, we are working towards creating a globally recognized, world-class research facility that will be at the cutting-edge of research on the human brain.”
Govindan Rangarajan (Director, IISc and Chair, CBR Governing Board): “With India’s elderly population rising rapidly towards an estimated staggering 32 crores by the year 2050, there is a concomitant increase in the burden of dementia and other aging-related neurodegenerative diseases. To address this impending health and socioeconomic crisis, research on the aging brain has emerged as the need of the hour. CBR is uniquely positioned not only to take on this challenge but also to enable India’s global excellence in this area. “