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Despite funding dip, IU bets on brains

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The city that brought the world Prozac and other neuroscience drugs is doubling down on brain research with a new $52 million research center near Methodist Hospital.

The 138,000-square-foot Indiana University Neurosciences Research Building will house researchers from the IU School of Medicine, trying to find treatments for such bedeviling diseases as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, autism and others. It is being paid for by the state of Indiana and Indiana University.

The new facility will sit next door to the new neuroscience imaging and outpatient center that is nearing completion. That 270,000-square-foot structure will house the medical offices of psychiatrists, brain surgeons, spinal surgeons and other neurosciences specialists.

Leaders at Indiana University and the IU Health hospital system hope the proximity between those researching neurosciences diseases and those treating them will lead to better care for patients and new breakthroughs in laboratories.

"This research facility will further strengthen the collaboration between our world-class researchers and clinicians, and open the door to innovative, cutting-edge treatments and therapies that will benefit future generations of Hoosiers,” IU Health CEO Dan Evans said in a prepared statement.

IU competes every year for a chunk of the roughly $12 billion in funding for neurosciences research doled out by the National Institutes of Health. Funding in those categories grew 7.5 percent from 2008 to 2011—slower than NIH funding overall. It is projected to remain flat the next two years.

Even so, the school has had some success at drawing those funds. In November, the Indiana Alzheimer Disease Center at the IU med school received $9.1 million in federal funding.

The neuroscience center also could make IU Health even more attractive as a site for clinical trials of experimental neuroscience drugs, which could bring it more industry funding—although many large pharmaceutical companies have been pulling back on R&D spending in the neurosciences. One notable exception: Indianapolis-based Eli Lilly and Co., the inventor of Prozac.

The entire neurosciences project, which costs more than $100 million, is an attempt by IU Health to attract patients even from beyond Indiana’s borders, providing a new source of revenue to the $4 billion-a-year system.

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