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DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency in the USA) has announced a new funding opportunity focused on spinal cord injury – Bridging the Gap Plus.  In a nutshell, this competitive program is focused on developing new interventions that bridge acute injury, regeneration, and chronic functional restoration.

That’s a lofty goal considering that our field is littered with past failures of these individual strategies.  Some things are a little different with this program however.

  • It is heavily engineering oriented.  Each proposal has to build 2 implantable devices – one around reducing the effects of acute injury and one around restoring multiple functions in the chronic setting.
  • The proposed interventions are required to fit in the FDA regulatory pathway and investigators must engage with the FDA early.  It is expected that a person with SCI will be implanted by the 5th year of each project under FDA oversight.
  • They are interested in the SCI consumer perspective.  Barry Munro, NASCIC Treasurer, was invited to speak at the Proposer’s Day meeting on November 5th.  The audience was 130+ people considering submitting proposals.  Barry told them about the value of considering the end user at the beginning.  Including lived experience on the research team only strengthens the end result.  He also told them that NASCIC is here to partner with them to enhance their proposals.

Full proposals are due by January 22, 2020.  We will keep you posted on NASCIC’s involvement and which proposals end up being funded.