Russian billionaire Potanin is in for human brain research


Billionaire Vladimir Potanin will fund a new Moscow-based laboratory where Nobel prize winner Konstantin Novoselov will develop materials for use in brain-computer interfaces and other applications.

Earlier, Elon Musk introduced a pig named Gertrude with a coin-sized computer chip in its brain to showcase his ambitious plans to create a working machine-to-machine interface. The interface could allow people with neurological conditions to control phones or computers with their mind.

Potanin gave 500 million rubles ($6.8 million) to the Brain and Consciousness Research Center to create a lab studying and developing materials such as graphene, Potanin’s Interros Holding said in a statement Wednesday. Novoselov will head the lab that will be based at the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology.

Potanin joins Tesla Inc.’s Elon Musk in funding the drive into neuromorphic computing, which could ultimately use brain implants to create a high-bandwidth link between humans and machines. Musk’s four-year-old startup Neuralink Corp. is developing implantable brain–machine interfaces, which he says have the potential to address brain injuries and other disorders.

Novoselov and another Russian-born scientist Andre Geim, both then professors at the University of Manchester, won the 2010 Nobel Prize in Physics for discovering graphene, a one-atom-thick “wonder material” that may allow for speedier computers. The new lab will employ 20 people and also develop “smart” materials with programmable properties.


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