NFL And GE Putting Heads (And Wallets) Together To Jumpstart Brain Research

At a jam-packed news conference at Rockefeller Center in Manhattan today, GE chairman and CEO Jeff Immelt and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell kicked off a $60 million, four-year effort to accelerate the understanding, diagnosis and treatment of brain injuries. The league, which generated nearly $10 billion in revenue in 2012, has been plagued by mounting criticism of its treatment of concussions. Last year, more than 3,000 former players sued the NFL, claiming it hid information about the long-term danger of head trauma.

As part of the new initiative, a team of medical professionals from academia, the private sector and the military will direct a study to identify magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) biomarkers that illustrate the type and severity of brain trauma. These could potentially led to more customized therapy and more accurate prognosis.

GE and the NFL hope to act as an catalyst for other researchers, technologists and entrepreneurs around the globe. The initiative includes two open innovation calls, the Head Health Challenge, with awards up to $10 million. The first, launched today, seeks new diagnostic and treatment methods of mild traumatic brain injuries. (Submit proposals to NFLGEBrainChallenge). The second challenge, starting in the fall and co-funded by Under Armour, focuses on equipment, materials and technologies that prevent head injuries.

In terms of scope, ambition and make-up, the collaboration is a first for both GE and the NFL. “We’ve never done anything like it,” Immelt tells Fast Company.

Read more from our exclusive interview with Immelt and Goodell here.

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Follow Chuck Salter and Fast Company.

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