Geneva, Switzerland - The Wyss Center has joined forces with an international consortium of universities, biomedical startups and nonprofit organizations to develop therapies for spinal cord injury that could improve long-term recovery. The five-year $36 million contract is part of the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency’s, (DARPA) Bridging the Gap Plus Program.

The consortium will develop a new generation of intelligent bio-interfaces to overcome different challenges associated with spinal cord injury. The technologies under development target stabilization of the patient immediately following the injury, regenerative therapy, and functional restoration to support a new standard of care.

The Wyss Center joins the part of the collaboration that focuses on stabilizing a person’s blood pressure shortly after spinal cord injury; dramatic fluctuations in blood pressure are common and they can disrupt vision and inhibit everyday tasks. 

Recent work, by Professor Gregoire Courtine and his team at École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), has shown that it is possible to stabilize blood pressure by stimulating the region of the spinal cord responsible for its regulation.

“The stimulation compensates for the broken communication line between the patient’s central nervous system and sympathetic nervous system,” said Professor Courtine.

The Wyss Center will adapt its medical grade NeuroKey software platform to continuously integrate data from blood pressure and blood flow sensors. NeuroKey will simultaneously process the sensor data in real time and deliver instructions for spinal cord stimulation to an implant developed by Courtine’s lab at EPFL. Onward, a startup based at EPFL Innovation Park and in the Netherlands, is commercializing the technology and is part of the DARPA consortium.

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