Spinal cord injury research at UBC receives $48M grant

UBC researchers, Dr. Brian Kwon, Dr. Babak Shadgan, and Dr. Chris West, are part of an international team that has received a $48 million grant (US$36.5M) for research aiming to improve long-term outcomes for patients with spinal cord injury (SCI).

The five-year project—made possible through a grant from the United States Defence Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA)—will revolutionize SCI treatments using innovative, implantable technologies.

UBC Orthopaedics professor, Dr. Brian Kwon, is the project’s co-principal investigator. “Never before has an agency committed funding of this magnitude for spinal cord injury and set such a high bar to demand not just incremental, but truly transformative solutions,” said Dr. Kwon.

Dr. Babak Shadgan, UBC Orthopaedics assistant professor, and Dr. Chris West, assistant professor in UBC’s department of cellular and physiological sciences, will also play key roles in the DARPA initiative.

“There is an enormous need to advance treatment options for people living with spinal cord injury here in Canada and around the world. This award represents an unprecedented opportunity to embrace cutting-edge technologies to accelerate the translation of research to patient care.”

Dr. Dermot Kelleher, Dean of UBC’s faculty of Medicine and Vice President, Health at UBC

The UBC team will lead the project’s acute injury stabilization efforts, developing fully implantable technologies to monitor the status of the injured spinal cord. This information will then be fed into an electrical stimulation system that will control a patient’s blood pressure to optimize delivery of blood and oxygen to the damaged spinal cord tissue.

Their aim is to see this technology implanted into an acutely injured patient with SCI at Vancouver General Hospital (VGH) by the final year of the DARPA grant.

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A version of this story originally appeared on UBC News.

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