network envisioned by the committee would involve not only a strong virtual component but also a structured plan for periodic and regular meetings and workshops to set priorities and strengthen interactions.
As a basis for this network, the committee urges a strong commitment by the federal government to designate and support Spinal Cord Injury Research Centers of Excellence. This would involve the establishment of new centers of excellence and the designation of several current spinal cord injury research programs as Centers of Excellence. Several multidisciplinary spinal cord injury research centers already exist, including the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, the Kentucky Spinal Cord Injury Research Center, the Reeve-Irvine Research Center, and research centers funded by the National Institutes of Health. The translational capacities of existing research centers should be strengthened, and two to three additional research centers of excellence should be established and sustained. Centers should be developed regionally to facilitate clinical trial networks. It is important that the centers interface not only with state research programs and nonprofit organizations but also with U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs spinal cord injury research centers as well as the Model Spinal Cord Injury Care System clinics and patient care centers to broaden the potential research base for clinical trials. A national effort to prioritize translational research on spinal cord injuries would expand the capacity to explore and develop therapeutic approaches.
Spinal cord injury is a multidisciplinary problem, and thus, spinal cord injury research requires collaborations among scientists and clinicians with diverse backgrounds. Therefore, a key component of the proposed Spinal Cord Injury Research Centers of Excellence should be the capacity to provide an environment that encourages comprehensive interdisciplinary research. The centers should bring together and support investigators from multiple fields, including, but not limited to, neuroscience, cellular and molecular biology, systems biology, immunology, engineering, bioengineering, biostatistics, epidemiology, and clinical medicine.
Recommendation 7.2: Establish Spinal Cord Injury Research Centers of Excellence
The National Institutes of Health should designate and support five to seven Spinal Cord Injury Research Centers of Excellence with adequate resources to sustain multidisciplinary basic, translational, and clinical research on spinal cord injuries. This would involve establishing two to three new Centers of Excellence and designating three to four current spinal cord injury research programs as Centers of Excellence.