Jeff Immelt, GE Chairman and CEO, speaking at the event
Sue Siegel, CEO of healthymagination, adding her thoughts during the event
GE has announced today a $60 million research and innovation partnership with the National Football League (NFL) in an effort to develop and improve concussion-detecting imaging technology for the benefit of athletes, members of the military, and society overall.
The partnership plays to the strengths of GE, particularly its healthcare division with strong technology expertise in areas such as MRI, PET and CT diagnostic imaging equipment. Technologies such as this are currently used as diagnostic and prognostic tools for brain health. GE believes that through this research in partnership with the NFL, it can develop the next, innovate medical imaging device to help deliver better care to patients with traumatic brain injury (TBI).
The partnership represents the NFL’s biggest private industry partnership to date and comes on the back of increased attention on the long-term effects of brain injuries on current and former players. Along with this new initiative with GE, the NFL has recently taken a number of steps intended to reduce head injuries. These have included amendments to rules, penalties and the suspension of players who target opponents’ heads. In addition, the NFL has set aside millions of dollars for research that looks at head injuries.
While the focus of the partnership with the NFL is to improve player safety, there are many other groups affected by TBI. Head traumas and brain injuries have become commonplace in sports like hockey, lacrosse, cycling, and snowboarding. In addition, individuals involved in road traffic accidents or suffering from neurological abnormalities may well benefit from the insights garnered from this partnership.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as many as 3.8 million sports-related concussions occur in the U.S. each year. That number includes not only professionals but amateurs of all levels, including children. Perhaps most worryingly, the number is not decreasing.
Investment in Innovation
Under the terms of the agreement, GE and NFL will jointly invest up to $40 million over a four-year period for the research aspect of the partnership.
The research will take a whole brain approach to determine the key Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) biomarkers to improve diagnosis and target treatment therapy for patients with mild traumatic brain injury. The research will be guided by a medical advisory board consisting of a cross-disciplinary team of medical professionals from various institutions.
In addition to the research, the two companies are investing up to $20 million in an open innovation program called the Head Health Challenge to generate ideas for new and improved safety equipment. The Head Health Challenge will have two tracks. The first challenge, open immediately for entries at www.NFLGEBrainChallenge.com, seeks to provide better understanding of the relationships between physiological biomarkers, mechanical factors responsible for brain injuries, and advanced brain imaging markers. The combined data will help to develop better strategies for preventing brain injuries and improving early diagnosis.
The second challenge, launching in September 2013, aims to research how to prevent injuries by reducing impact forces transmitted to the brain. This can be accomplished by using novel energy absorbing materials or the use of active protection systems based on predictive algorithms.
The ideas with most potential from the challenge would undergo further development with a view to market.
Finding Solutions through Partnering
GE Healthcare has a long history of working with partners to access the most innovative ideas to meet critical needs. In 2011, as part of its healthymagination initiative, GE Healthcare and several partners sponsored a $100 million global open innovation challenge to identify and bring to market ideas that advance breast cancer diagnostics. The Challenge was launched in collaboration with a number of leading venture capital firms. In 2011, more than 500 ideas from 40 countries were submitted.
Last year in a partnership agreement that echoes the one with the NFL, GE Healthcare announced a collaboration with Purdue University to create a platform that would produce longitudinal data from “healthy through injury and recovery” on the Jefferson High School (Lafayette, Indiana), football team. The research’s objectives were to further understand the nature of concussions by using a non-invasive, in vivo method to study these injuries. The investigation also aimed to improve on current knowledge of brain injuries, which may lead to improved return to play and life and better therapies as well as better guidance of protective equipment design in the future.
More images of the press conference can be viewed here
The focus of the partnership with the NFL is to improve player safety and reduce injuries to the head and brain