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Center of Economic Excellence



Award Amount

$3 million

External Funding Above Match

$17.8 Million

Research Focus

Brain neuromadulatory systems and their roles in cognitive performance, drug abuse, sleep and affective disorders. Others areas of research are movement disorders such as Ataxia, Choro, Bradykinesia and multiple system atrophy.

University Partner

Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC)

Private Sector Partner

Multiple Industry Partners

The Neuroscience SmartState Center researches age-related neurodegenerative problems including dementia, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and stroke. This area of research has a major impact on South Carolina, where more than half the population is over the age of 56.

The Center is a strong component of MUSC’s established Neuroscience Institute and
also works in collaboration with the MUSC Center on Aging.

The Center has supported the creation of SemiAlloGen, Inc., a biotechnology start-up company that develops therapeutics in the field of neuro-degenerative disorders and cancer. This Center is developing a project with Jazz Pharmaceuticals to test mechanisms of action of the drug Xyrem. The Center has partnered with Cephalon Pharmaceuticals and Lilly Pharmaceuticals to test brain reward function. It has also begun discussions with Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline to test two antagonists as potential treatment of addiction.

The Center has received more than $12.7 million in research funding, which SmartState Endowed Chair Dr. Aston-Jones and his research team have focused on such subjects as drug addiction; a new rat model of depression, and brain circuits involved in circadian regulation of behavioral processes. In 2010, Aston-Jones’ research of the brain nucleus locus coeruleus spurred an article on the causes of autism by the director of the Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative.
The Center has collaborated with research teams at Princeton University, Tamagawa University in Japan, University of Texas at San Antonio, Harvard University, University of Bordeaux (France), and University of Pennsylvania.

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