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Great Minds Think Alike; Scientists Establish Statewide Neurogenetics Consortium

Contact: Karen Sanborn, EMHS (207) 973-6164

Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems News Release

(Brewer, Maine)- This past week researchers, scientists, and geneticists from various institutions, universities, and colleges in Maine gathered together at the Maine Institute for Human Genetics and Health to discuss the formation of the first ever Maine Neurogenetics Consortium. During this next year, those within the consortium will share knowledge, expertise, and resources to help to identify common links across many levels of analysis in the neurogenetics field, and to become more competitive in grant applications through collaborations.

Janet Hock, PhD, director of the Maine Institute for Human Genetics and Health, greeted the members of the consortium, including Jackson Laboratory, with enthusiasm for what the consortium may bring, “The Neurogenetics Consortium is a dream of researchers and geneticists in Maine. With Maine’s large concentration of neuroscientists, diverse expertise in the area of nuerogenetics, and potential in cross-institutional collaboration, we can use the Maine Institute for Human Genetics and Health as a statewide hub to develop a comprehensive neurogenetic research program to study mental health problems that are of great interest to people in Maine.”

The Maine Institute for Human Genetics and Health challenged the group to start thinking of how to kick start collaborations and be creative, by offering a seed grant competition to determine how to use the money in the best interest of Maine people. Together, the consortium will determine the rules for the competition and how it will be run.  Researchers from all over Maine will be bringing their ideas to the table and will have the opportunity to collaborate with other institutions with whom they otherwise may have not had the opportunity to work.

“Neurogenetics is one of the leading edge disciplines in the neurosciences. Through the seed grant competition, we are looking for people to be creative in their ideas of where they think neurogenetics will be in the future. For example, we know very little about the side effects of chemotherapy on the brains of cancer patients, a condition that has been called ‘chemobrain.’ Patients complain of memory loss, difficulties in learning or a sensation that their brain has to work harder. This condition is an area for cancer researchers and neuroscientists to come together to investigate what the problems are, and how can the risk of those problems be reduced,” explains Maries Hayes, PhD, professor, University of Maine, and allied senior scientist at the Maine Institute for Human Genetics and Health, “All individuals in the consortium have different neuroscience expertise; what unites everyone is the common thread of neurogenetics and what many consider to be the next wave in neuroscience.”

In September, a neurogenetics conference is planned. During the conference all researchers competing in the seed grant competition will have the opportunity to present their work. The institute will invest $200,000, received from an anonymous donor, in this seed program to provide the winning research groups with funds needed to get enough preliminary data and test creative ideas to help obtain federal grant funding.

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