Transforming Science to Advance Brain Health
Cohen Veterans Bioscience is a national, nonpartisan research 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to fast-tracking the development of diagnostic tests and personalized therapeutics for the millions of veterans and civilians who suffer the devastating effects of trauma-related and other brain disorders.
We are accelerating the development of next-generation diagnostics and treatments for brain disorders by harnessing the power of biotechnology (including neuroimaging, ‘omics, and biosensors) in combination with high-performance computing and data analytics, to understand the underlying mechanisms of disease and discover new ways to improve brain health.
Cohen Veterans Bioscience operates as a Public-Private Partnership Cooperative Alliance, organizing a network of partners who each contribute complementary and synergistic data, capabilities, or expertise to support a common roadmap for identifying diagnostic biomarkers, building predictive brain disease models, and developing treatments.
Cohen Veterans Bioscience builds upon endeavors by Orion Bionetworks, a Cambridge, MA-based organization that was founded in July 2012, and whose strategic alliance partners span North America and Europe. Orion Bionetwork’s aim was to apply a cooperative, multidisciplinary approach to many brain disorders, beginning with its flagship program for multiple sclerosis (MS). In 2015, Orion Bionetworks received major funding from Cohen Veterans Foundation to harness its approach for Veterans Brain Health. Cohen Veterans Bioscience will focus on PTS and TBI, with discoveries applicable to the overarching challenge of brain disease.
Globally, 2 billion individuals are directly affected by brain disorders with a catastrophic personal and societal cost exceeding $2 trillion USD.
These disorders, which number in excess of 600 diagnosable conditions, include neurologic conditions (such as multiple sclerosis and dementia), psychiatric conditions (such as depression and PTS), brain injuries (such as TBI), pain and substance abuse disorders.
Of these, TBIs accounted for approximately 2.5 million ED visits, hospitalizations, and deaths in the U.S. alone, while 8.6 million Americans aged 18–64 have a diagnosis of PTS disorder (PTSD).
The World Health Organization attributes 38% of the total years lost to death and disability to brain disorders, a figure well ahead of the next-closest and higher-profile diseases of cancer (12.7%) and cardiovascular disease (11.8%).
When examining the costs of TBI and PTSD in veteran populations, these diseases exact an enormous personal and societal toll.
With more than 2.7 million men and women deployed to support combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001, the likelihood and burden of these brain diseases will only increase – particularly given the current lack of accurate diagnostics and effective treatments.
We do not know the causes and mechanisms of most brain diseases, including TBI and PTS, and consequently have inadequate treatments, no definitive diagnostics and no cures.
Without this knowledge we cannot predict disease onset, objectively diagnose patients, identify worthwhile targets for therapeutic intervention, assess benefit, or deliver optimized care.
To move forward, we need to rethink how we study brain disease, how we define it, how we identify new targets, and how we advance precision medicine approaches. We need to do science at scale and embrace the complexity of disease.