Sri Sarma, executive director of the new NeuroTech Harbor technology accelerator.

The following was originally published in The Hub.

Johns Hopkins University and Howard University are teaming up to develop medical devices to diagnose, treat, and manage neurological disorders.

Researchers with the new NeuroTech Harbor technology accelerator, supported by the National Institutes of Health, will collaborate with diverse partners worldwide to create equitable and accessible technologies and solutions. The goal is increase participation in the neurotech ecosystem by underserved communities so that the devices created there will be inclusive.

“Potentially life-saving and life-changing solutions addressing neurological conditions are out there, but the pace of their development is slow,” says Sri Sarma, executive director of the new center and associate professor of biomedical engineering at Johns Hopkins. “Many of the most promising concepts often languish due to a lack of resources and the high risks associated with early development phases. NeuroTech Harbor’s approach will overcome those barriers, helping to fast-track solutions to conditions that affect one in six people around the globe.”

More than 1 billion people worldwide suffer from neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, stroke and migraines.

Over the next five years, NeuroTech Harbor anticipates as many as 500 applications from innovators with an aim to launch 45 projects, at least 15 of which will have one woman or under-represented minority on the founding team. NeuroTech Harbor and the Center for Innovative NeuroTech Advancement will fund and support selected teams.

NeuroTech Harbor and the Center for Innovative NeuroTech Advancement are part of the National Institutes of Health’s Blueprint MedTech: Incubator Hubs program, which aim to accelerate development of medical devices to diagnose and treat nervous system disorders.

The first funding opportunity launches today. Teams can apply for up to $500,000 in support per year for three to four years. Selected teams will also receive support from mentors experienced in commercializing neurotech devices. This round they expect to choose as many as eight teams, with two yearly selection cycles.

“This partnership between Howard University and Johns Hopkins will bring together global teams of diverse experts to provide innovative solutions for neurological conditions, which impact our communities.” said Bruce Jones, professor and vice president for research at Howard University. “This grant supports a key pillar in the Howard Forward strategic plan to inspire new knowledge while increasing the diversity of research and innovation. We look forward to the growth and success of this collaborative partnership.”

Sarma will lead the team of investigators and personnel from Johns Hopkins and Howard University. The principal investigators will be a majority of women or historically underrepresented groups.

Other team members from Johns Hopkins include Nitish Thakor, professor of biomedical engineering), Youseph Yazdi, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Bioengineering Innovation and Design, and Ralph Etienne-Cummings, professor of electrical and computer engineering. The Howard University team includes Evaritus Nwulia, professor of psychiatry, and Kebreten F. Manaye, professor and chair of the department of physiology and biophysics.

“Studies show that diversity unlocks innovation, drives growth, stimulates novel thinking, improves outcomes, and produces solutions that work for everyone,” Sarma says. “So, we are committed to diversity and inclusion during early-stage translation as the first critical step toward creating lasting and meaningful long-term clinical and societal impact.”