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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.


The Clinical Trials Unit started a couple years ago with donated funds provides the necessary infrastructure to be able to perform multiple clinical trials in spinal cord injury as well as traumatic brain injury.  Drs. Ross Bullock, James Guest, and Allan Levi are all utilizing this infrastructure to conduct clinical trials funded by the NIH, DoD, CDRF, and multiple biopharmaceutical companies. 


Funding from the Buoniconti Fund has allowed Dr. Dalton Dietrich and colleagues to examine the effects of therapeutic hypothermia in preclinical models of spinal cord injury.  These exciting findings have now been successfully translated to people with acute spinal cord injury through the Clinical Trials Unit. Ongoing studies in this area are now directed to testing this experimental therapy in a randomized multicenter trial which has been submitted to the NIH for funding. 


As Scientific Director, these funds have also allowed Dr. Dietrich to support a variety of new Miami Project research initiatives that have resulted in important discoveries and progress.  Fundraising dollars have also supported the recruitment of new scientists to study SCI and the purchase of specialized equipment necessary to conduct cutting edge science.  One of our junior investigators, Dr. Coleen Atkins, has used philanthropic funds to generate preliminary data regarding learning and memory deficits associated with traumatic brain injury.  She recently received funding approval for a 5-year NIH grant to further identify the molecular mechanisms that underlie memory deficits after brain injury. 


The overall objective of this research is to design a therapeutic intervention to improve hippocampal-dependent learning and memory deficits at chronic time points following injury.  Many humans that sustain spinal cord injury unfortunately also suffer a brain injury, so the results of this research initiative could be applicable to both populations.

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