Major Funding, Partnership with Morgan State University Will Catalyze Effort to Address Health and Neuroscience Research Disparities

Baltimore, MD –July 23, 2020 – The nation’s first African Ancestry Neuroscience Research Initiative (AANRI) announced today $2.25 million in startup funding from the investment management firm Brown Capital Management (BCM) and the State of Maryland. The goals of the AANRI are to close the gap in brain research that has consistently underrepresented African Americans and to create the most comprehensive African-ancestry, brain-genomic dataset in the world, with the ultimate goal to develop new therapeutics and prevention strategies for brain disorders.

In research studies of brain disorders, underrepresented minority groups make up less than 5% of research cohorts, on average. In large-scale genetic studies of brain disorders, the percentage of individuals of African ancestry is even smaller. This is especially troubling because brain disorders, similar to COVID-19, show important differences in prevalence among ancestral populations, but there is little understanding of the basis of these differences.

The AANRI is a partnership between prominent community leaders in Baltimore, MD, and the Lieber Institute for Brain Development (LIBD), an independent, not-for-profit medical research institute working to develop new treatments for brain disorders. The AANRI aims to establish a road map to help close the gap in health disparities and ensure that genomic research and neuroscience studies are representative of individuals across all populations, including African ancestry.

“Genomic research has changed the landscape for so many diseases,” said Keith A. Lee, President and Chief Investment Officer of Brown Capital Management. “We’re investing in this initiative to ensure that people of African American ancestry are represented in this fast-moving era of precision medicine.”

Brown Capital Management, founded in 1983 by renowned investment manager Eddie Brown, has agreed to fund the AANRI for $1 million over the next two years.

In partnering with AANRI, Morgan State University has committed to develop collaborative projects to promote diversity in scientific research. Designated Maryland’s Preeminent Public Urban Research University and the state’s largest HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities), Morgan will work together with LIBD to develop student engagement opportunities, faculty collaborations and health disparity outreach, while promoting diversity in scientific research through seminars, workshops, student internships, and faculty training at the Lieber Institute.

“This is a unique opportunity that directly connects to our mission as an urban research university and will allow our faculty and students to engage in important scientific study with the potential for meaningful outcomes that benefit a community that we serve,” said David K. Wilson, president of Morgan State University. “We look forward to lending our resources to this important undertaking and applaud Brown Capital Management for its continued investment into the lives and well-being of African Americans, as well as the Lieber Institute for spearheading this dynamic, collaborative effort.”

Maryland is the first and only State to address these critical inequities. Introduced in the State Legislature by Maryland House speaker Del. Adrienne A. Jones (D-Baltimore County) and Sen. Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City), Maryland Governor Larry Hogan carried forward the bold lead and included $1.25 million in the 2021 Supplemental Budget to address these research health disparities through the support of the AANRI.

There are currently no studies focused primarily on postmortem human brain tissue from individuals of recent African ancestry. The AANRI aims to change this disparity by scaling-up brain research efforts through this new funding opportunity.  The LIBD, with donations from African American families of over 500 brains for research purposes, will identify how brain genes and proteins are turned on and off in the specific context of the African Ancestry genome, which differs substantially from that of individuals of European ancestry.

Rev. Dr. Alvin C. Hathaway, Sr., AANRI partner, said “My clergy colleagues and I have been studying the emerging science behind precision medicine and believe that this technology has potential for finding cures and treatments for diseases that uniquely affect African Americans. We thank Governor Hogan and the Brown Capital Management team for these gifts to propel the good work of this partnership.”

“In the context of the events of the past few weeks and an unprecedented national health crisis that has disproportionally impacted minority communities, the work of this Initiative is more critical than ever,” said Daniel R. Weinberger, M.D., Director and CEO of the Lieber Institute for Brain Development. “With this historic funding round from Governor Hogan and Brown Capital Management, and our partnership with Morgan State University, the AANRI scientific agenda will accelerate forward, with the ultimate goal of developing new treatments for brain disorders for people of recent African ancestry.”

For more information on the African Ancestry Neuroscience Research Initiative, visit aaneuroscienceresearch.com or contact Becky Oldham, Director of Communications at the Lieber Institute for Brain Development at media@libd.org.

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About the African Ancestry Neuroscience Research Initiative
The African Ancestry Neuroscience Research Initiative (AANRI) aims to establish a road map to help close the gap in health disparities and accelerate research efforts that will lead to new treatments for brain disorders. The Initiative is the first of its kind in the nation to address health and neuroscience research disparities. 

About Morgan State University
Morgan State University, founded in 1867, is a Carnegie-classified doctoral research institution offering more than 126 academic programs leading to degrees from the baccalaureate to the doctorate. As Maryland’s Preeminent Public Urban Research University, Morgan serves a multiethnic and multiracial student body and seeks to ensure that the doors of higher education are opened as wide as possible to as many as possible. For more information about Morgan State University, visit www.morgan.edu. 

About Brown Capital Management
Brown Capital Management is one of the premier and oldest African-American founded asset managers in the world. Founded by Eddie Brown in 1983, the Baltimore-based boutique today manages $14 billion in client assets in U.S. and international equity strategies.

About the Lieber Institute for Brain Development
The mission of the Lieber Institute for Brain Development and the Maltz Research Laboratories is to translate the understanding of basic genetic and molecular mechanisms of developmental brain disorders into clinical advances that change the lives of affected individuals. LIBD is an independent, not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization and a Maryland tax-exempt medical research institute affiliated with the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.