Newswise — PHILADELPHIA – The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation announced today it has awarded a $9.25 million grant to Penn researchers to study the underlying mechanisms of concussion and help uncover potential clinical interventions that could improve recovery.

The grant was awarded to a team of researchers led by David F. Meaney, PhD, the Solomon R. Pollack professor and chair of Bioengineering in the School of Engineering and Applied Science, and Douglas H. Smith, M.D., the director of the Center for Brain Injury and Repair and the Robert A. Groff professor of Neurosurgery in the Perelman School of Medicine. The interdisciplinary project takes a comprehensive and data-driven look at what happens to the brain during and after concussion, with the potential to transform fields of research and clinical care of brain injury.

This new funding for brain science research reflects Paul Allen’s longstanding commitment to advancing scientific discovery and our understanding of the human brain. There is a surprising lack of basic research on the cellular mechanisms involved in concussions and the intent of this grant is to provide better data and research, which will be made openly available to the scientific community. Instead of viewing concussions as stemming from a single mechanism, this work will uncover how cellular events will combine and influence concussion recovery pathways.

The Foundation believes this research, if successful, could bring a paradigm shift to understanding traumatic brain injuries, leading to more effective methods of preventing and treating concussions.

“We are thrilled to be the recipients of this grant and to have the resources to address the fundamentals of concussion science in a new way,” said Dr. Meaney. “We have assembled a diverse team of experts in many fields across several academic institutions to take a comprehensive approach to the problem, and are very grateful for the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation’s bold vision to accelerate concussion science and treatment.”  

The goal of the project is to understand the nature of concussions by taking a network approach that looks at concussion’s impact across many scales in the brain, including neural circuit connectivity, multiple cell types, blood flow, and the importance of the blood-brain barrier. 

“In particular, we hope to decipher how the brain can re-route signals to bring its network back on line after a concussion,” said Dr. Smith.

The research team will combine studies in living systems with data-driven approaches that will provide insight into mechanisms of damage associated with concussion, as well as what leads to successful brain repair. Because individual cases of concussion vary so widely, capturing data at the level of cells, circuits, blood flow, and metabolism will help to make sense of the concussion’s diverse outcomes and help uncover potential clinical interventions to improve recovery.


Penn Medicine is one of the world's leading academic medical centers, dedicated to the related missions of medical education, biomedical research, and excellence in patient care. Penn Medicine consists of the Raymond and Ruth Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania (founded in 1765 as the nation's first medical school) and the University of Pennsylvania Health System, which together form a $6.7 billion enterprise.

The Perelman School of Medicine has been ranked among the top five medical schools in the United States for the past 20 years, according to U.S. News & World Report's survey of research-oriented medical schools. The School is consistently among the nation's top recipients of funding from the National Institutes of Health, with $392 million awarded in the 2016 fiscal year.

The University of Pennsylvania Health System's patient care facilities include: The Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and Penn Presbyterian Medical Center -- which are recognized as one of the nation's top "Honor Roll" hospitals by U.S. News & World Report -- Chester County Hospital; Lancaster General Health; Penn Wissahickon Hospice; and Pennsylvania Hospital -- the nation's first hospital, founded in 1751. Additional affiliated inpatient care facilities and services throughout the Philadelphia region include Good Shepherd Penn Partners, a partnership between Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Network and Penn Medicine.

Penn Medicine is committed to improving lives and health through a variety of community-based programs and activities. In fiscal year 2016, Penn Medicine provided $393 million to benefit our community.