Prof. Y Narahari
Centre for Brain Research,
Indian Institute of Science,
Bangalore 560012, India
The Centre for Brain Research (CBR) is an autonomous centre of the Indian Institute of Science with a goal to discover “how we can preserve cognitive functions during aging and reduce the burden of dementia through early diagnosis and innovative, scientifically proven interventions.” The establishment of CBR was made possible through a very generous philanthropic gift from the Pratiksha Trust founded by Mr. Kris Gopalakrishnan (one of the co-founders of Infosys) and Mrs. Sudha Gopalakrishnan. The Pratiksha Trust has also generously funded the CBR Building in the IISc Campus. This magnificent munificence has very few parallels in the history of philanthropy in the Indian History.
This unique public-private partnership through which CBR has been established has provided a marvellous opportunity for India to create a world-class centre for transformational research with a unique mandate centred around neurogenerative diseases of the elderly population. Mr. Gopalakrishnan and Mrs Sudha Gopalakrishnan are committed to funding research in this area with the firm understanding that Indian scientists can contribute and produce cutting-edge research and innovation that is globally recognized, if they are given a resourceful, dynamic environment that promotes creative thinking. Their steadfastness to this idea that Indian researchers are capable of delivering the best is the one of the greatest motivations for our work at CBR to reduce the burden of dementia and other age-related disorders of the brain.
The uniqueness of CBR is also in the fact of our relationship with one of India’s premier research university, the Indian Institute of Science. It must be mentioned here that CBR works under the guidance and supervision of the Governing Council of IISc and the Director of IISc is the Chair CBR’s Governing Board. This unique relationship that we have subsumes all aspects of research at CBR and we hope for even more closer interactions with the faculty and students of IISc. CBR is uniquely positioned as a centre funded through philanthropy but having close relationships with IISc, thus enabling and giving it the flexibility and nimbleness as we strive to address important difficult problems and make a difference.
While CBR was conceptualized and its research activities were defined, it soon became apparent that CBR needs to address much larger problems that require collective effort. CBR is governed and functions to enable such large efforts. With this in mind, the faculty and the students at CBR are very aware of their major commitment to the large projects and the focus to translate our research findings for reducing the burden caused by aging disorders as well as to find ways and means to promote healthy aging.
With the above goal, CBR first started with a large rural longitudinal study, wherein 10,000 people above the age of 45 years are being assessed in several interdisciplinary dimensions, periodically, as they age, ranging from cognition to imaging to genetics in order to identify the risk and protective factors that are responsible for pathological aging at the cost of healthy aging. A parallel study funded by the Tata Trusts is also currently 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 parallell. It is my hope 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.
The rural study was started with the knowledge that two thirds of India lives in villages and unless they are included in our research and made a part of our research, whatever progress we make would not be meaningful in terms of transformation in the country. In addition to these two projects, 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. This is again is a flagship project of CBR and the first such effort in India.
As we move forward, it is very clear to us that the mission of CBR has to be realized, we need to be courageous, have the ability to take risks, make efforts to tackle difficult problems that have defied understanding and find ways to reduce the disease burden caused by these disorders. The generous support and encouragement provided by our donors and our board gives us the motivation and commitment to address these difficult problems that lie ahead of us. In the years to come, we see CBR making significant transformational contribution to our understanding of the aging brain with particular emphasis on the identifying the risk factors and protective factors in the rural India people and more importantly finding ways to carry out scientific interventions that would be timely, scalable, and affordable to lower the burden of brain disorders as both rural and urban communities age. We welcome you all to join us in this effort and look forward to stimulating research and innovation in the years ahead.