issue Fall 2020

Inaugural Brain Science Institute Conference

Amiel Rosenkranz, PhD, director, Brain Science Institute.
Photo by Michael R. Schmidt

The genesis of RFU’s inaugural Brain Science Institute Conference on “Investing in Brain Disease Research” can be traced to when concepts for the university’s Innovation and Research Park took shape in early 2016.

“When we were planning for the research park, we analyzed the existing research infrastructure at Rosalind Franklin, and realized of the 120-plus researchers that RFU has, approximately 50% of them were focused on brain-related diseases,” said Executive Vice President for Research Ronald S. Kaplan, PhD. The result was the significant reorganization of RFU research in 2018 and the creation of the Brain Science Institute with three distinct centers, along with other new centers in other areas of disease expertise.

“I believed that the science park really would be the catalyst for rethinking biomedical innovation at Rosalind Franklin University and what that means,” Dr. Kaplan added, saying the idea of a Brain Science Institute symposium was seen as an opportunity “to communicate to the world — donors, alumni and the industry — the areas of diseases where the university has recognized world-class expertise.”

“I believed that the science park really would be the catalyst for rethinking biomedical innovation at Rosalind Franklin University and what that means.”

The Sept. 16–17 conference was altered but not toppled by COVID-19 restrictions on congregate gatherings. The proceedings were switched to a virtual format that allowed participants to join video presentations on Alzheimer’s disease, psychiatric disorders and therapies for central nervous system diseases. Panel discussions were also conducted on other neurodegenerative and genetic neurological diseases and funding neuroscience research.

According to Dr. Amiel Rosenkranz, director of the Brain Science Institute, the conference drew some 300 registrations, with participants circling in and out of the livestream during the two days of presentations to hear four keynote speakers and more than 30 panelists.

“It’s the first time that we brought together a combination of scientists in the neuroscience space,” Dr. Rosenkranz said. “We had academic, NIH, Veterans Administration and industry scientists; we had the disease-based foundations, which play an important role for funding early scientific work; and we had venture-capital representatives.”

Dr. Rosenkranz added that participants included four early-stage neuro startup companies — one each from RFU, the University of Chicago, the University of Illinois and Northwestern University.

A Brain Science Institute Conference might become an annual event or be renewed once every two years, with Dr. Kaplan saying consideration is focused on a 2021 symposium featuring one of the other new disease-based centers that were created in 2018.

Please note, any group photo that does not feature physical distancing or mask wearing was taken prior to the State of Illinois issuing such guidelines. RFU has policies in place that require these and many other safety measures.