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URMC / News / New Multi-Institutional Partnership to Focus on Stroke Rehabilitation

New Multi-Institutional Partnership to Focus on Stroke Rehabilitation

Monday, May 20, 2019

Dr. Bradford Berk
“NCNY will employ a new generation of robots to perform rehabilitation in stroke patients and at the same time, measure the benefit of new therapies to restore function to paralyzed limbs.” - Dr. Bradford Berk

The University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC), Burke Neurological Institute, and Wadsworth Center of the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) have been awarded a $5 million grant from the Empire State Development Corporation to speed the development of ground-breaking neurological treatments for those disabled from stroke.

The project is a part of the NeuroCuresNY (NCNY) initiative, a new non-profit formed by the three institutions to accelerate the discovery of novel treatments for chronic neurological impairment and disability. The new state funding will support a two-year pilot study that will be launched in January 2020. This study design will be unique because it will test the efficacy of state-of-the-art robotic-assisted rehabilitation technology combined with drugs to improve the functional recovery of stroke patients.

Neurological conditions such as stroke, traumatic brain injury and spinal cord injury permanently disable more than one million people each year in the U.S., and stroke is the nation’s leading cause of disability. Clinical trials for neurological disabilities and impairments are usually passed over because of unclear results, high costs, and challenges in recruiting participants. NCNY will seek to lower the barriers to participation in clinical trials by assisting with travel funding for patients, while providing a supportive and guiding environment for patients and their families.

The new study will conducted at the University of Rochester Neurorestoration Institute, led by Bradford C. Berk, M.D., Ph.D., and the Burke Neurological Institute, led by Rajiv R. Ratan, M.D., Ph.D. The National Center for Adaptive Neurotechnologies at the Wadsworth Center of the NYSDOH, led by Jonathan Wolpaw, M.D., will configure the technology that collects and analyzes the research data.

“NCNY will employ a new generation of robots to perform rehabilitation in stroke patients and at the same time, measure the benefit of new therapies to restore function to paralyzed limbs,” said Berk. “The platform will enable us to gather more quantitative and accurate data on the impact of experimental treatment, allowing us to conduct studies in a shorter time period with far fewer patients. As a result, we will be able to bring new treatments to the market faster and at a lower cost.”

Clinical and research faculty from URMC Departments of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation will collaborate with the UR Neurorestoration Institute during the pilot study.

“Millions of Americans and their families struggle on a daily basis with the challenges of being disabled from neurological conditions such as stroke, Alzheimer's disease, traumatic brain injury and spinal cord injury,” said Ratan. “The lack of treatment options to significantly address the challenges that people with these neurological conditions face highlights the need for a novel, game-changing approach.” 

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