NIH Opens John Edward Porter Neuroscience Research Center
NIH has announced the opening of a new state-of-the-art facility that it says will encourage unprecedented collaboration across the many institutes associated with neuroscience research. The John Porter Neuroscience Research Center will help unite brain and nervous system research on the NIH campus in Bethesda, Md., bringing together more than 800 scientists in 85 labs from 10 NIH institutes and centers.
“This is a new building at NIH, and it also represents a new culture in which organization is driven by the nature of the question [scientists] are asking,” said Thomas Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), at a March 31 ceremony to dedicate the facility. Story Landis, director of the National Institute of Neurological Disease and Stroke (NINDS), commented that the center will ensure scientists can “readily share approaches to accelerate progress,” as well as share tools and technologies. Insel and Landis’ remarks followed a welcome by NIH Director Francis Collins and statements from other current and former institute directors. Many past and present Congressional leaders attended and spoke about the critical role of NIH, including Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), winner of the 2009 SfN Public Advocacy Award, Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL), and Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-PA), a leading voice for neuroscience research.
The concept of an interdisciplinary neuroscience research center was developed by former NIH institute directors more than 15 years ago, and was carried forward by successive leaders. Two originators of the idea were Gerald Fischbach, former director of NINDS (1998–2001) and SfN president (1983–84), and Steven Hyman, former director of NIMH (1996–2001) and the Society’s current president-elect. They secured the strong support of then-NIH Director Harold Varmus.
This building “started as a dream,” said Fischbach—one focused, he said, on bringing together common aspects of basic science. “It’s one thing to dream, but it is another to get things done. It is amazing to see it done.”
NIH named the new center in honor of former U.S. Rep. John Edward Porter, an Illinois Republican who was a member of the House Appropriations Committee for 20 years and chaired the subcommittee overseeing NIH health programs and other health-related federal agencies. During his tenure as chair in the 1990s, he set the course for doubling the NIH budget, largely due to his leadership and advocacy. Porter continues to be an extraordinary leader on health issues and funding for biomedical research— he is chair of Research!America, a close SfN advocacy partner, and vice chairman of the Foundation for the NIH.
The building was the second and final phase of the two-building project, the first of which was completed in 2004. Funding for the new building was made available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009.