Reeve Summit 2020 Research Recap

Posted by Ethan Perlstein in Research News on March 25, 2020 # Research, Reeve Summit

Given the current circumstances it feels like a small eternity but from February 26-28th a representative cross-section of the SCI community convened in Washington DC for the first-ever Reeve Summit. The main sponsor of the event was the Administration for Community Living, so the majority of the speaker and panel content was focused on our care mission.

On the cure side, there were three sessions. Next year there will be more research-focused sessions, a mix of engaging talks highlighting the best translational SCI research and interactive expert panels. When the time comes, I welcome input from the community about the research areas that matter most to them.

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Dr Lyn Jakeman from the NINDS gave a talk entitled “State of SCI Research.” Dr Jakeman presented the findings of a two-day conference held last year called SCI 2020. Although a unified translational research agenda did not emerge as a work product from that meeting, the seeds were planted. Dr Jakeman acknowledged that NIH’s mandate does not include translational research. Someone else will need to fill the gap.

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That’s where a global alliance of SCI stakeholders collaboratively developing a Chronic SCI Cure Roadmap, and the coordinated and sustained venture philanthropy effort the Roadmap will enable, enter the frame. I gave a keynote talk entitled “The Future of SCI Research” laying out this vision, and you’ll hear more from me on this Roadmap process in the months ahead. My presentation can be found on Twitter with slide-by-slide annotations. You can download a PDF copy here.

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Finally, I had the pleasure of moderating an expert panel called “Imagining a world without SCI” with Drs Ann Parr and Rebecca Martin. The questions were: How did you first get involved in SCI? What is the optimal funding/prioritization balance between acute versus chronic SCI research, e.g., neuroprotection vs regeneration? It’s been 20 years since stem cells burst on the scene but there are no approved cell therapies for SCI. Will SCI cell therapies need to be tailored to each person’s injury and if so, what will pivotal clinical trials look like?

If you could design from scratch a network of financially self-sustaining SCI functional recovery centers, what would it look like? Do you think therapies that target dysautonomia, i.e., secondary consequences of SCI, should be prioritized? What will the first SCI combination therapy to be approved consist of? For example, spinal stimulation plus acute intermittent hypoxia plus activity-dependent assistive rehab?

What was science fiction in SCI research a decade ago that appears to be heading to the clinic in the next few years? Paint a picture of the next 10-15 years and how we get to a world without chronic SCI. What will it take to eradicate SCI from the planet?

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This month we’ll hit our target of one research blog per week. We’re doing our part to stay engaged. Stay safe wherever you are!

A few weeks ago, I officially joined the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation as their first-ever Chief Scientific Officer or CSO. The SCI community has swiftly and graciously welcomed me into the fold. I’m so excited to begin the challenging, necessary, and long overdue work of translating over two decades of basic research into interventions, treatments and, yes, one day multi-faceted cures for spinal cord injury. I consider this an opportunity of a lifetime.