DARPA Awards $36M for Spinal Cord Injury Recovery Systems

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As part of its Bridging the Gap Plus Program, DARPA awarded a consortium of universities, biomedical startups, and nonprofit organizations an award that supports the consortium’s development of interventions for spinal cord injuries. The treatments and recovery methods the award aims to develop are to be implemented within days of injury, ultimately improving long-term outcomes.

Karen Moxon, from University of California, Davis (UC Davis), will lead the five-year project supported by the $36 million award. The consortium will focus on three primary technologies, including a near-infrared spectroscopic sensor. Brian Kwon, co-principal investigator and spine surgeon from the University of British Columbia (UBC), will develop the sensor. Pathonix Innovations Inc., also in Vancouver, Canada, will then commercialize the device to assess blood oxygenation and blood flow at the site of spinal injury.

The additional technologies include an implantable mean arterial pressure sensor and a spinal cord stimulation and blood pressure regulation system.

The technologies will together integrate into a system-of-systems capable of monitoring information from sensors and stimulators and of access to clinicians. As the system delivers information, team members will simultaneously, and from the delivered information, be able to determine the optimal time to transplant neural stem cells and 3D scaffold — critical, time-sensitive assessments and implementations following spinal injury, when large swings in blood pressure are common. Stabilizing hemodynamics within days of injury improves functional recovery.

The international team comes from 12 institutions: UC Davis, UC San Diego, UC San Francisco, UBC, the University of Calgary, the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL, Switzerland), Pathonix, GTX Medical (Lausanne, Switzerland), Teliatry (Richardson, Texas), the Wyss Center for Bio and Neuroengineering (Geneva, Switzerland), Battelle Memorial Institute (Columbus, Ohio), and NetValue BioConsulting Inc. (Toronto).

Published: October 2020
DARPABusinessfundingawardsspinal cord injuriesspinal cord repairbiomedical imagingspectroscopynear infrared spectroscopyUniversity of British ColumbiaCanadaAmericasmedicalconsortiumBioScan

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