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Chaka Fattah speaks about neuroscience research Credit: Luke Chen , Luke Chen

Chaka Fattah, the 10-term Democratic congressman that represents West Philadelphia, will announce a partnership between Philadelphia research centers and a major initiative in the European Union to invest in scientific innovation next week.

“What we’re going to be rolling out to an audience of innovators and the university community and laboratory leaders in our region — is laying out the opportunity for real partnerships with the EU on these projects,” Fattah said in an interview with The Daily Pennsylvanian.

“I’ve had a series of meetings with the science advisor for the EU over the past two years, and it’s going to culminate with an event right here in University City on September 20,” he said.

Horizon 2020 — the EU’s comprehensive science investment initiative — includes an €80 billion ($105 billion USD) investment in research and innovation. While there are six broad areas of inquiry, Fattah said more money will be dedicated toward neuroscience than any other field. He indicated that a portion of those funds will be invested in Philadelphia, which he said could be at the forefront of innovation in the field.

“This is the most important frontier for our country,” he said. “University of Penn is stepping forward in terms of its work. I think Philadelphia is going to be poised to help lead the world.”

“That’s why I’m going to be making this announcement,” he added.

The announcement comes as the University is increasing its neuroscience research enterprise. In response to a White House push to map the human brain, Penn plans to build a new neuroscience building and to facilitate partnerships between researchers in different fields — medicine, engineering, law and bioethics — to better understand the brain and the legal implications of research in the field. The congressman said he has been in close communication with the University regarding its research initiatives.

Fattah is the top Democrat on the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies, which oversees appropriations to the National Science Foundation and other research agencies. As one of Congress’s leading advocates for scientific research, he told graduate students of the partnership during the keynote speech for the Neuroscience Graduate Group retreat Friday afternoon.

The congressman has made neuroscience research his top priority in terms of federal appropriations for research. While federal support for research has dwindled in recent years, particularly since the sequester in March, he said that the phenomenon “will not stand,” given the political pressure exerted by the White House and congressional Democrats to up the investment in science and technology.

Fattah’s office will make a formal announcement of the program next week, and he declined to give more specific details until then.

Correction: A previous version of this article contained a typographical error stating that €80 billion is $105 trillion USD, not $105 billion.

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