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Albany Med Today

The Brain Power of NYHeals

Albany Medical Center is taking part in the first-ever statewide public-private collaborative research initiative bringing together top researchers and technology leaders to enhance the diagnosis, treatment, prevention and cure of a variety of diseases.

Launched by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, the New York Hub for Emerging Applications in Life Sciences (NY HEALS) includes Albany Med, IBM, SUNY College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering (CNSE), the Research Foundation for SUNY, the University at Albany, the Jacobs Institute, Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, the Wadsworth Center and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

“Each of our separate institutions has demonstrated remarkable research power. We now embark on a statewide effort to ensure that we achieve even more,” Albany Med President Jim Barba said.

The initiative will offer doctors and scientists access to advanced infrastructure such as IBM’s Watson supercomputer.

One of the first initiatives for NY HEALS, called BRAIN NY, will seek to secure federal funding through President Obama’s BRAIN (Brain Research Through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies) program. Albany Med has made extraordinary advances in brain mapping based on clinical experience with patients as a Level 4 epilepsy center, as well as through collaboration with the state’s Wadsworth Laboratory to develop brain-computer interface technology to help those immobilized by disease or trauma.

“The ultimate goal is to develop permanent recording brain implant technology that would lead to, among other breakthroughs, thought-controlled communication and prosthetic systems for patients with various forms of paralysis,” said Anthony Ritaccio, MD, ’84, director of the Epilepsy and Human Brain Mapping Program at Albany Med. “It will take a concerted effort of engineers, neurologists, surgeons and others to get there, so it is very exciting that NY HEALS will help facilitate collaboration among researchers throughout the state and raise the profile of important work we are doing here.”