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In basic science, sometimes it takes individual benefactors like Roys Poyiadjis to fuel innovation
Date:5/31/2012

NEW YORK, May 31, 2012 /PRNewswire-iReach/ -- A January blog posting by Dr. Thomas Insel, director of the National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH), captured one of the core challenges of funding across the research spectrum. His analysis discussed a divergence among members of the National Advisory Mental Health Council (NAMHC), a group tasked with reviewing grants under consideration for funding by the NIMH.

"Some members of Council bear witness to the poor quality of care, the unmet medical need, and the diminishing investments by states on behalf of people with mental disorders," Insel writes. "The opposing argument runs something like this: There has been no major innovation in therapeutics for most mental disorders since 1960. Current treatments are not good enough for too many. Rather than investing scarce dollars for incremental improvements or increased dissemination of mediocre interventions, we need invest in the fundamental science of brain and behavior so that we can understand how to develop better treatments."

As this tension no doubt played out across multiple scientific disciplines, relationships between the scientific community and individual benefactors like New York financier Roys Poyiadjis may become more crucial to investigative progress.

In the applied arena, large institutions like NYU are adroit at turning research grants from the federal government into patentable inventions. In the past several decades, more than 100 startups have been built on NYU discoveries and innovations. In fact, in 2010, NYU created the Innovation Venture Fund, a seed-stage venture capital fund designed to incubate technologies and intellectual property at the largest private university in the United States.

But this model is not as practical in the realm of basic science and esoteric scientific inquiry where ROI is not as easily measured. In these areas, non-government funding may require more elusive inspiration based on personal passions – sparking the imaginations and making connections with entrepreneurs like Roys Poyiadjis. Mr. Poyiadjis' brother Alkis Poyiadjis had been referred to NYU's Dr. Rodolfo Llinás in 2000 for a pharmacologically unresponsive psychosis which had manifested suddenly in his 20s. With Llinás' guidance and surgical treatment in Switzerland, Alkis was able to make a remarkable recovery and lead a self-supporting life, without psychotic episodes.

A National Academy of Sciences member and Professor at the Department of Physiology and Neuroscience at NYU, Dr. Llinás is internationally known for his pioneering work in magnetoencephalography (MEG), a technology for measuring electrical activity within the brain. The non-invasive technique is used for mapping brain activity by recording magnetic fields produced by electrical currents within the brain.

Llinás' neuroscientific research has also contributed significantly to the medical community's understanding of how certain brain diseases arise from thalamocortical dysrhythmia, the disruption of connections between the thalamus and the cortex.

Not surprising, Dr. Llinás' lab requires the most advanced MEG device to support its diagnostic and research initiatives. In this case, it was Dr. Llinás' clinical relationship Roys Poyiadjis that provided the solution.

Motivated in part by the role Dr. Llinas played in the treatment of his brother, Roys Poyiadjis became an active advocate, business advisor and financial supporter of basic neuroscientific research at NYU, providing $1 million in funding in 2006 for the purchase of an MEG device for Llinás' lab and supporting several lines of neuroscience research at the institution at a multi-million dollar level.

Roys Poyiadjis also initiated several companies created to help the lab monetize the products of its research in thalamocortical dysrhythmia suppression.

At NYU and research institutions across the nation, active engagement with the investor community and relationship-building with benefactors like Roys Poyiadjis are becoming vital activities for building a vibrant research environment.

As Insel wrote, "High throughput sequencing for DNA and RNA, whole genome epigenomics, high resolution imaging of the human brain, connectomics—all of these tools are giving us a first opportunity to understand mental disorders at many levels beyond the reported symptoms or the observed signs. What the EKG did for cardiology, the bacterial culture did for infectious disease, and molecular biology did for oncology, neuroscience should provide for the study of mental disorders."

As government grants strike a necessary balance between services and basic research, labs may increasingly seek out individuals benefactors like Roys Poyiadjis to drive fundamental discovery.

Media Contact:

Katy Couch, Katy Couch Inc., 410-889-7604, kcouch71@gmail.com

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