spinal cord injury research and presents the committee’s recommendations for the next steps needed to accelerate progress.
Neuroscience research into the basic mechanisms of nerve conduction, plasticity, and regeneration has enormous implications for many neurological disorders and disease entities (e.g., multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis [ALS], and Parkinson’s disease), including spinal cord injuries. For example, what is learned about remyelination in research on multiple sclerosis is likely to be of benefit in examining nerve conduction in individuals with spinal cord injuries. Therefore, it is difficult to draw distinct boundaries for funding or to define the precise parameters for research exclusively on spinal cord injuries.
One of the challenges in examining research infrastructure issues is the lack of quantitative measures targeted to a specific field of research, in this case, spinal cord injuries. Most often, the measures highlight the bigger picture and can provide broader sets of statistics (such as the number of Ph.D. candidates in neuroscience), but the data on the specific infrastructure for spinal cord injury research (such as the number of doctoral candidates who pursue research careers focused on spinal cord injuries) are not available.
The following discussion provides a brief overview of the current funding and support for spinal cord injury research. Researchers and research centers often receive funding from multiple sources; and research centers leverage federal, state, and private sector funding to make the best use of the resources.
As the major federal funder of biomedical research in the United States, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) supports extensive preclinical and clinical research, training opportunities, and collaborative ventures that are relevant to spinal cord injury research. In fiscal year (FY) 2003, $89.2 million in NIH funding was designated for spinal cord injury research; the funding estimate for FY 2005 is $93 million. This funding level is comparable to that for research on multiple sclerosis ($99.2 million in 2003 and an estimated $102.8 million in 2005) and epilepsy ($94.3 million in 2003 and an estimated $99.5 million in 2005) (Personal communication, A. Howard, NIH, August 4, 2004). NIH funding for research on Parkinson’s disease in FY 2005 is estimated to be $240 million, and research on