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eWalk Trial, NeuroScience Australia

Recipient NeuRA – Sydney Australia
Lead Researcher Professor Simon Gandevia
Project timeframe 2022
Funding amount $959,832
CatWalk payments Total Commitment $1,750,000. (Payments also made prior to 2022)

Development of non-invasive neurostimulation treatments to return feeling and function to those that have been paralysed.

The eWalk trial is the world’s first controlled clinical trial to determine the precise benefits of neurostimulation, instigated by SpinalCure Australia, to provide the data to support the mainstream adoption of non-invasive neurostimulation treatments.
The trial aims to improve or restore the ability of paraplegic patients to stand and walk through the application of neurostimulation combined with
physical therapy.

Calcium binding buffer proteins and neuroprotection

Host institution The University of Auckland
Post‐Doctoral Research Fellow Dr Sheryl Tan
2022 NZ$91,226
2022 NZ$95,592
Funding term 24 months

A series of functional studies will be conducted using human spinal cord tissue and stem cells to see if the distribution of calcium binding buffers are altered in the injured spinal cord and therefore if they create neurodegeneration.

Generating human oligodendrocyte precursor cells from adult human dermal fibroblasts for the treatment of spinal cord injury – post doctoral funding.

Host institution The University of Auckland
Post‐Doctoral Research Fellow Dr Amy McCaughey‐Chapman
2021 NZ$92,558
2022 NZ$94,284
Funding term 24 months + extension due to COVID-19 lockdown

Oligodendrocytes are cells in the central nervous system that produce a protective, insulating layer called myelin which allows electrical impulses to propagate quickly and efficiently between neurons. This study will investigate whether human oligodendrocyte precursor cells generated from human skin cells can be used for cell transplantation to promote remyelination following spinal cord injury.

Remyelination is the natural repair mechanism of demyelination, it is proposed that remyelination protects against progressive axonal injury and consequently also diminishes long-term disability. Endogenous remyelination takes place following spinal cord injury, but this is not sufficient for repair and hence transplantation of exogenous oligodendrocyte precursor cells to promote and enhance remyelination is an exciting prospect.

The use of gene therapy in combination with enriched cell transplantation in a chronic model of SCI.

Host institution The University of Auckland
Research location Centre for Brain Research
Lead investigators Mr Connor Clemett
Funding amount $17,915 extension payment due to Covid related delays
Funding term 2019 – 2022

Repair of the damaged cord with stem cell implants is an exciting therapeutic development but its potential is currently limited by the formation of scar tissue within the injury. The Spinal Cord Injury Research Facility (SCIRF) lab in Auckland has developed a method to express a “scar busting” enzyme within the injured cord which along with exercise rehabilitation leads to improved outcomes. The aim is to combine the gene therapy approach with the addition of stem cells to promote recovery.

PhD student, Connor Clemett, has started a project to combine this approach with cell therapy. Connor will inject cells into the injured cord that wrap around the nerve cells and improve the connection with other cells. This approach aims to make the new connections that occur stronger, leading to even better outcomes. In future we hope to use a new technology where we can grow these cells from an injured persons skin cells and, by using their own cells, increase the chance that such an approach will be successful.

Project Spark – Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA)

Host institution Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA), Sydney
Lead Researcher Prof Simon Gandevia
2023 AU$350,000
2024 AU$350,000
2025 AU$350,000

A joint funding agreement 50/50 between CatWalk and SpinalCure to support the research being undertaken by Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA).

Building on the eWalk trial experience, NeuRA researchers and NeuroMoves clinics will commence a world-first national program of community studies making experimental neurostimulation treatments available in the community


Spinal Cord Injury Research Facility (SCIRF)

Host institution The University of Auckland
Research location Spinal Cord Injury Research Facility (SCIRF)
Director Dr Simon O’Carroll
Technical Manager Barbara Fackelmeier
Funding amount NZ$580,990 over five years ($116,176.00 p.a.)
Funding term 1 August 2020 – 31 July 2025, five years

A major initiative of the SCIRF continues to be training of biomedical students in spinal cord injury research and development of novel treatments for spinal cord injury. Funding for this covers the cost of highly specialised technical support and access to the world-class animal facility to support ongoing projects and collect pilot data to be used to attract funding from others sources, and summer studentship funding that allows the recruitment and training of postgraduate students.

Providing security of funding for the SCIRF allows the team to continue to attract and retain high quality staff and students crucial for building on the existing current projects as well as developing news ideas both locally and through international collaborations.

SCIRF carries out experiments in the Vernon Jansen Animal Unit (VJU) at the University of Auckland. The VJU is a state-of-the-art, high-containment animal facility that provides support for projects that have high-level containment requirements.

Long term funding for a technician ensures the employment of a highly experienced animal technician Barbara Fackelmeier. Barbara has over 15 years’ experience working with animals and is crucial to provide ongoing training in animal care and behavioural testing to new staff and students as well as providing ongoing technical, surgical and animal care support for postdocs and students within the SCIRF.

Being able to offer summer student scholarships allows the team to bring high quality medical and science students into the lab and introduce them to the field of spinal cord injury research.

The NZ Brain Bee Challenge (NZBBC)

NZ$15,000 committed to annually in July until 2024.
2020 event cancelled due to COVID

The NZBBC is a competition for high school students in year 11 to learn about the brain and its functions, learn about neuroscience research, find out about careers in neuroscience and to dispel misconceptions about neurological and mental illnesses.

The NZBBC provides current and accurate information on the latest advances in neuroscience research, its value to the community, and promote careers in science and technology.

Electroceutical therapies to treat spinal cord injury in a preclinical model

Host institution The University of Auckland
Lead Researcher Dr Bruce Harland
2023 $123,181
2024 $123,181

This fellowship will create / test second-generation bioelectric implants that are flexible and use super-capacitive electrodes that are less prone to degeneration. Both low and high frequency stimulation will be tested, whilst the final aim will use a battery-operated device, removing the need for external cabling

Computational modelling and analysis to inform electrical treatments following spinal cord injury and assist in development of electrical biomarkers.

Host institution The University of Auckland
Lead Researcher Dr Brad Raos
2023 $106,884
2024 $106,884

This project will provide a means to both record and stimulate from the spinal cord. It has high potential to provide breakthroughs, not only in terms of treatment but also understanding of SCI, e.g. acute /spinal shock phase. Linking imaging with electrical activity and function across time, could yield important and novel information.

Applying sustained electrical fields to achieve functional recovery after SCI

Host institution The University of Auckland
Lead Researcher Associate Professor Darren Svirskis
2022 $142,564
2023 $64,700
Total Commitment $337,942 (payment also made in 2021)

The project continues to determine the efficacy of sustained electrical fields incorporated into a bioelectronic implant to direct axonal regeneration after SCI.

Generating human oligodendrocyte precursor cells from adult human dermal fibroblasts – Project Funding

Host institution The University of Auckland
Lead Researcher Dr Amy Chapman
2022 $$55,882 plus extension due to Covid $23,500