It’s a pretty basic question for a Cure Warrior. As we ponder the multifaceted answers to that question, we begin to grasp the enormity of the task in front of us. What are the biggest challenges?
- Scientific: Figuring out how to regenerate the appropriate pathways that will bring about functional MOTOR recovery in the chronic injury. As we begin to experiment with therapies in humans, we’ll then need to identify the best DELIVERY method(s).
- Translation: Okay, we’ve had success with a couple of therapies in the laboratory. How do we raise the money, get regulatory approval, and enroll enough patients to run a human clinical trial? As a case in point, the Geron trial proved to be a massive and ultimately failed undertaking. They ran out of money and couldn’t enroll sufficient patients before they could prove much of anything.
- Marketing: Any investor looking to bring a therapy to market had better have an excellent business plan, or the therapy will never reach widespread use. We have seen this play out with the introduction of several neurotechnology devices. Many of these tools have proven to be beneficial for clients, but implementation is hindered by lack of awareness and/or failure of insurance companies to cover.
- Apathy: The SCI community suffers from a lack of focus and energy when it comes to pushing for curative therapies. We all know how living with SCI drains one’s physical, financial, and emotional resources. And to date, we haven’t seen anything in the way of a tangible scientific breakthrough to galvanize the troops.
How can you or I address these challenges in a meaningful way? First and foremost, and I know I’m repeating myself, STUDY THE SCIENCE! For starters, you’ll need to understand the terminology. The more reading you do, the more researchers you talk to, the more leaders you network with, the more you will get comfortable in the conversation.
Where to start? Check out the U2FP Clinical Trials Table for continuous updates on what’s happening in the field and an introduction to acronyms. Read our lay-friendly reports from recent lab visits with top researchers. Join us at the Working 2 Walk Symposium in Irvine, California, this November.
We need people with knowledge and passion to join this fight and commit to the long-term. If we can invent the atom bomb, if we can put humans on the moon, if we can map the human genome, surely we can repair the injured spinal cord. It’s all about priorities. Making a difference starts with us, and I look forward to the day when we don’t have to ask the question, “Why are we still paralyzed?”