Public Release:  Burnham and HeadNorth Foundation join forces to advance spinal cord research

Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute

HeadNorth Foundation has pledged $975,000 to Burnham Institute for Medical Research (Burnham) to support cutting-edge stem cell research. The funding, part of HeadNorth's Chronic Spinal Cord Injury Project, will support efforts by Dr. Evan Snyder, Stem Cell Program Director at Burnham and Dr. Mark Tuszynski, Director, Center for Neural Repair at the University of California, San Diego, to use stem cells to treat chronic spinal cord injuries.

"One of the main hopes of the spinal cord injury community is that the future holds a cure for paralysis," said Randal Schober, HeadNorth's executive director. "We at HeadNorth believe that stem cells may hold the key to bringing that hope to fruition."

Stem cells can be programmed to become many types of cells, including spinal cord neural cells. When used with biosynthetic scaffolds--bio-engineered materials that provide a foothold for genes--stem cells have promoted the formation of neural cells in adult rats with acute spinal cord injuries. HeadNorth, Burnham and UCSD seek to translate this early research into new treatments that will ease suffering and transform lives.

"HeadNorth is one of the few foundations addressing the most daunting of scientific challenges--repairing spinal cords that were injured a long time ago," says Dr. Snyder. Though some progress has been made on repairing recently or acutely-injured spinal cords in mammals, most patients must live with a chronic, long-term injury, and very little progress has been made. We and HeadNorth embrace the challenge."

Eric Northbrook, who founded the HeadNorth Foundation in 2006 after a motorcycle accident severed his spinal cord, adds: "We are honored to say that the HeadNorth Spinal Cord Injury Project is the only research study of its kind in the country focused on chronic spinal cord injury. We believe combining the stem cell research of Dr. Snyder and others at Burnham with Dr. Tuszynski's spinal cord repair work will lead us to the ultimate solution."

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About the HeadNorth Foundation

The HeadNorth Foundation was founded in 2006 by Eric Northbrook and is committed to supporting individuals and families affected by spinal cord injuries. After a motorcycle accident severed his spinal cord almost three years ago, Northbrook became a champion in the race to cure paralysis. The HeadNorth Spinal Cord Injury Project is the first step in finding that cure.

About Burnham Institute for Medical Research

Burnham Institute for Medical Research is dedicated to revealing the fundamental molecular causes of disease and devising the innovative therapies of tomorrow. Burnham, with operations in California and Florida, is one of the fastest growing research institutes in the country. The Institute ranks among the top four institutions nationally for NIH grant funding and among the top 25 organizations worldwide for its research impact. Burnham utilizes a unique, collaborative approach to medical research and has established major research programs in cancer, neurodegeneration, diabetes, infectious and inflammatory and childhood diseases. The Institute is known for its world-class capabilities in stem cell research and drug discovery technologies. Burnham is a nonprofit, public benefit corporation. For more information, please visit www.burnham.org.

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