The China Brain Project is the culmination of 5 years of planning and debate. The CBP is expected to get additional money under future plans, putting it in the same league as the U.S. Brain Research Through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies. The Chinese Academy of Sciences' Institute of Neuroscience (ION) is one of the architects of the project.
The project's details aren't clear. Robert Desimone of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology believes that China's researchers are building on their strengths. The neural basis of cognitive functions, diagnosis and treating brain disorders, and brain-inspired computing are some of the areas that the CBP focuses on. Project leaders hope that the absence of animal rights activism in China will help lure talent from overseas. Poo studied and worked in the US for 40 years before moving to China full-time in 2009.
According to Denis Simon, a China science policy expert at Duke University, neuroscience was first identified as a priority in China's 2016 Five- Year Plan. Simon says there was a lot of discussion about how to choose projects. Brain science was once again designated as a priority field in the five-year plan. The funding for the CBP began in December of 2011.
The acrimony wasn't going away. There are 11 designated centers and about 50 research groups that will share the money. The president of Capital Medical University told Science that conflicts of interest are created by the representation of all the selected institutions on the committee. He wrote in a social media post that everyone tends not to oppose targeted projects so that the projects they support can be adopted smoothly. Several other neuroscientists in China did not respond to emails asking about the criticism.
It's hard to say who will benefit most from the plan. There were no official announcements of the awards to designated centers or grant recipients. It was not possible to get information from the China'sMinistry of Science and Technology.
The EU and the U.S. schemes complement the CBP's focus on treatments and basic work with primates. Tools and technologies are the focus of the BRAIN Initiative. The goal of the Human Brain Project was to build a computer model of the human brain, but it was criticized as unrealistic after it was expanded.
The CBP wants to expand on Chinese strengths. A group led by the president of Hainan University has refined and automated a technique to slice and image thick ribbons of tissue from blocks of mouse brain. Hongkui Zeng is the director of the Allen Institute for Brain Science, which is collaborating with the US.
The macaque brain, which is 200 times bigger, will be the next project for the team. The director of the BRAIN Initiative says that the effort will complement new brain-mapping programs. They are talking to each other.
The development of disease models in monkeys is one of the areas in which China is leading. Five genetically identical macaques that lacked a key genes regulating the clock were created by the team. The group used a lot of different methods to create the five animals. Sleep disorders, increased anxiety, and depression were caused by the deletion of the genes. The group has used gene editing to make monkeys susceptible to Alzheimer's. ION researchers are working on ways to cripple genes in monkeys to make them sick of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, according to a researcher who has been on sabbatical at ION.
The team's animal models will be shared by poo. Because major airlines no longer carry nonhuman primate as cargo, researchers will have to visit the International Center for Primate Brain Research, which is funded by the city of Shanghai and the Chinese Academy of Sciences. After his lab was targeted by animal rights activists, the leader of the center moved most of his team to another place.
Logothetis is not likely to have the same problems in China. There is some concern about the use of animals in research, but there is no animal rights group that focuses on this. Ji Dai is a neuroscientist at the Shenzhen Institute of Advanced Technology. Policies on handling animals are more strict in China.
China is increasing the number of non human primate in its research centers. Bing Su, a geneticist at the Institute of Zoology, says that there will be 5000 monkeys in the facility. There are more than 1000 animals in the CAS institute in Shanghai. There is a monkey breeding and research center in Hainan province. The United States holds up to 20,000 nonhuman primate.
Other challenges could be faced by the CBP. One of China's top research cities, Shanghai, shut down completely in April and May due to China's strict zero–COVID-19 policy. Gitler says that the restrictions have caused people to bail out of China. The ability of Mu-ming and others to recruit people will be studied.
There is a question of whether political tension between China and the west will affect cooperation. Desimone doesn't see much impact on life science collaborations right now. He doesn't have a crystal ball about international tensions in the future