Funds For Spinal Cord Research Sought To Aid Injured Police Officers And Veterans

For immediate release:  March 17, 2014


Support Grows for Full Restoration of NYS Spinal Cord Injury Research Program

ALBANY, N.Y. – Prominent state lawmakers today joined a broad coalition of doctors, medical researchers, biotechnology pioneers and patients in urging full funding of the New York Spinal Cord Injury Research Program.

Supporters say full funding will benefit law enforcement personnel and veterans injured in the line of duty.

“Paralysis disproportionately affects those working in law enforcement and the military,” said David A. Carmel, co-founder of the coalition known as New Yorkers to Cure Paralysis. “Thousands of law enforcement personnel and soldiers have sustained serious injuries in the line of duty. The work funded by New York’s Spinal Cord Injury Research Program can make a real difference in their lives and the lives of others. But the program needs to be fully funded.”

Carmel and other coalition members welcomed the support of key state lawmakers.

Senate Deputy Majority Leader Tom Libous of Binghamton said: “Supporting the pioneering spinal cord injury research at leading institutions like the Watson School of Engineering at Binghamton University makes a lot of sense. It’s good for our local economies and it’s just the right thing to do.”

Senate Health Committee Chair Kemp Hannon of Garden City said: “The state wisely established this research program and created a funding mechanism for it, we must now ensure the original intent of the program is realized. If we do, New York will be a leader in the critical area of neurological research.”

Assembly Member Kevin Cahill of Kingston said: “New York State has developed a critical mass of expertise in spinal cord injury research.  It established a program with tremendous potential for breakthroughs. Not to follow through with the investments and further develop this program would unconscionable.”

New Yorkers to Cure Paralysis co-founder Paul Richter, a retired NY State Police sergeant who was partially paralyzed when shot in the line of duty, said: “In the time since I was injured, there’s been tremendous progress and there will be more progress if we properly fund this  research.”

Higiano Laureano, military veteran and patient, said “Without this funding, it is harder for veterans to get the opportunity to participate in trials of new treatments for spinal injury.”

Boyd Melson, U.S. Army Captain and advocate for injured veterans, said: “The field of regenerative medicine is exploding and holds real promise for injured veterans. New York can and should be the center of this effort. The Spinal Cord Injury Research Program is the key.”

Dr. Kaiming Ye, Chair of the Department of Bioengineering at Binghamton University, said: “This program will support New York researchers, hospitals and academic centers with the goal of being foremost in this country in discovering and developing cures for spinal cord injury. The program will help attract scientists and physicians to our state, providing cutting edge researchers and state-of-the-art medical facilities. This, in turn, will assist in leveraging federal and private funds.”

Also attending the news conference were: Senator John Bonacic of Mount Hope; Senator Mark Grisanti of Buffalo; Dr. Brad Berk, CEO of the University of Rochester Medical Center; and Heidi Greenbaum of Scarsdale, whose son Cory was paralyzed in a car accident.

New York’s Spinal Cord Injury Research Trust Fund was created in 1998.  The program was funded by a state surcharge on moving violations – with the intent of the law being that $8.5 million would be driven to research each year. From 1998 to 2010, the fun provided more than $71 million for scientific research at leading New York universities and research institutions, and this helped establish New York State as the leader in research to cure paralysis. But in 2010, the Paterson administration terminated funding to the program, using all of the proceeds from the surcharge to help balance the state budget. This resulted in the disruption of important research efforts and clinical trials.

New Yorkers to Cure Paralysis is a broad coalition that includes: Accorda Therapeutics, Inc.; The Alan T. Brown Foundation to Cure Paralysis; American Society of Neurorehabilitation; Associated Medical Schools of New York; The Burke Medical Research Foundation; The Burke Rehabilitation Hospital; The Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation; The City College of the City University of New York; Columbia University Medical Center; National Spinal Cord Injury Association; Medical Society of the State of New York; Medical Society of the State of New Jersey; Mt. Sinai Medical Center; North Shore Long Island Jewish Health System; Regenerative Medicine Foundation; The Rockefeller University; Spinal Cord Damage Research Center; Team Fight to Walk; United Spinal Association; University of Rochester Medical Center; and Westchester Medical Society.

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Contact: Darren Dopp 518-432-9220o, 518-944-5494c

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