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The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis is a unique research center for many reasons, but probably one of the most important reasons is the leveraging power made possible by all of the donors to The Buoniconti Fund to Cure Paralysis.

In today’s world of grant funding, the pool of applicants is increasing while the pot of available funds is remaining level or, in some cases, decreasing or disappearing altogether.  Hence, in order for grant applications to be competitive, preliminary data regarding the research questions being tested need to be included to show the likelihood of success if funded.  However, that creates a situation similar to “having the cart before the horse”.  How is one supposed to generate data without funds to conduct the experiments?  That is where philanthropy becomes critically important and The Buoniconti Fund to Cure Paralysis has been instrumental in making possible significant scientific advances in the field of spinal cord injury.  

All of the private funds that have been generously donated to The Miami Project via The Buoniconti Fund over the last 25 years have enabled our researchers to generate the crucial preliminary data necessary to be awarded larger grants to further enhance our understanding of trauma to the nervous system and work towards developing effective therapeutic interventions.  The ability to purchase supplies for experiments and support personnel to conduct the experiments, without fear of interruption between grants, is critical to the success of The Miami Project in carrying out its mission.

At this 25 year landmark, we’d like to highlight how this some of this seed money from many generous donors has been used to leverage additional, large sources of funding and has been critical to advancing the scientific understanding of spinal cord injury.


Drs. Vance Lemmon and John Bixby have utilized philanthropic funds to set up a highly specialized laboratory with automated equipment that enables them to screen thousands of gene products (proteins) simultaneously and to measure their effects on nerve growth and regeneration.  Without this technology, they would only be able to screen a few genes at a time.  Because of this technology, however, they recently discovered a family of genes that plays a significant role in regulating nerve regeneration.  They are also using this technology to screen a multitude of compounds to identify drugs that promote regeneration.  Positive hits can then be further investigated in animal models of spinal cord injury.  In 2009-2010, they have been awarded 4 NIH grants as well a very large State of Florida King Biomedical Research grant and 4 manuscripts have been published. 


Dr. Murray Blackmore, who was a post-doctoral fellow with Drs. Lemmon and Bixby and is now one of our new junior faculty members, has utilized this facility to discover genes that promote or inhibit growth of nerve cells in the cortex of the brain that send axons all the way down to the spinal cord.  Those particular nerve cells play a significant role in controlling voluntary movement and have proven particularly difficult to regenerate their axons once damaged.  Dr. Blackmore recently received a grant from CHNF to evaluate the ability of these genes to stimulate regeneration in a laboratory animal model of spinal cord injury.

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