Bioethics Blogs

Brain devices: Navigating collaborations between industry, government, and researchers

by Paul J. Ford, PhD

Dr. Ford is Director of the NeuroEthics Program at the Cleveland Clinic. He is an active clinical ethicist, and teaches ethics to medical students, residents, and fellows. His publications have appeared in Science, The Hastings Center Report, Neurology, Neuromodulation, and Journal of Medical Ethics. He is also a board member for AJOB Neuroscience.

This spring (June 3-4, 2015) the National Institutes of Health (NIH) as part of the BRAIN Initiative convened an eclectic group of individuals in hopes of encouraging more investigator initiated studies of currently approved neuromodulation and neuro recording devices for new indications (agenda, session videos, and program goals available here). The participants, both on the program and in the audience, specifically included industry, researchers, universities, and governmental agencies. I was delighted to participate in the workshop and was impressed by the number of sincerely interested parties across the spectrum of roles. Within these conversations it was apparent that there existed many shared values and goals as well as complex challenges for protecting particular interests. It beautifully highlighted the complexities of interactions among varied stakeholders.

Among the group there was a broad interest in performing due diligence in discharging their various duties to their constituents. At its heart, the meeting was a good faith effort to realize a desire to see innovations develop to the point of helping clinical populations, i.e. real people who suffer. This aspect of the BRAIN initiative recognizes the current significant logistical barriers to exploring new uses of existing devices within a research context.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.