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Spinal Cord Injury Research

Act 126 of 2018​

About Spinal Cord Injury [1]

  • There are an estimated 12,000 spinal cord injuries every year in the United States alone.
  • More than a quarter of a million Americans are currently living with spinal cord injuries.
  • The cost of managing the care of spinal cord injury patients is $3 billion each year.
  • The largest proportion of spinal cord injuries (36.5 percent) occurs during car accidents. More than a quarter are the result of falls and the rest are due to acts of violence (primarily gunshot wounds), sporting accidents, and other less common causes.
  • The average age at injury has risen and is now 42.6 years.
  • 80 percent of spinal cord injury patients are men.

Background

Act 2001-77, the Tobacco Settlement Act, authorized the Pennsylvania Department of Health (Department) to establish a health research program, known as the Commonwealth Universal Research Enhancement (CURE) Program. The Spinal Cord Injury Research Program was established as an amendment to the Tobacco Settlement Act on October 24, 2018. The Spinal Cord Research Advisory Committee (SCRAC) was also established. Tobacco Settlement funds will be used for research projects regarding spinal cord injuries and to conduct peer reviews and performance reviews on the research projects.

The Secretary of Health approved the allocation of $1 million per state fiscal year (SFY) for research in this program. An institution that conducts research on spinal cord injuries in Pennsylvania shall be eligible to apply for a grant. Grants shall be awarded to conduct research into new and innovative treatments and rehabilitative efforts for functional improvement which may include but are not limited to: (1) pharmaceuticals; (2) medical devices; (3) brain stimulus; and (4) rehabilitative approaches and techniques. The inaugural Request for Application (RFA) will be a total of $2 million as the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 SFY funds will be combined.

How is a Research Topic Identified?

The SCRAC provides the Secretary of Health and the Department with their recommendation for the research topic. The research topics are to be reviewed annually and revised as necessary. The Health Research Office (HRO) administers and manages the CURE Program funds as well as the grants.

Due to the intent of the statute, the SCRAC has developed guidance for research projects.

  1. Funding is intended to support novel spinal cord injury research projects. Grants shall be awarded to conduct research into new and innovative treatments and rehabilitative efforts for the functional impairment of people with spinal cord injuries. Research topics may include, but are not limited to, pharmacologic, biologic, medical device, brain stimulus, and rehabilitative approaches and techniques.
  2. Preference will be given to those projects and techniques that seek to change the nature and course of the injury.
  3. This funding initiative was driven by the legislative intent to address the gap in translation of discovery to human study and application. As a result, further preference will be given to research that is strategically translational or translatable relative to aims and outcomes met. 
  4. Finally, there is also preference given to research strategies that represent a potential or existing collaboration with industry, whether in the development/trial of biologics, pharmacologics, device or novel therapeutic rehabilitative treatments in combination.

What Are We Doing?

The Department, in collaboration with the SCRAC, is working to identify the research topic, establish and issue an RFA, and develop processes, timelines and activities structure that leads to reviewing and selecting the applications that meet the research topic requirements. Two annual calendar SCRAC meetings, at minimum, will occur. Additional meetings can be scheduled as needed or requested.

What Can You Do?

  • Attend all the SCRAC meetings either in-person or call-in;
  • Ask questions;
  • Be involved in discussions; and  
  • Let HRO or SCRAC know of any concerns.

Resources for More Information

If you have any questions, contact us at ra-healthresearch@pa.gov.