Support each other to bridge the gap say scientists

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Spinal Cord Injury Network was pleased to showcase spinal cord injury research from around Australia and New Zealand at the ANZSCoS 2009 Conference in Perth on 26 November 2009.

 “Bridging the Gap: Translational research in spinal cord injury” featured seven scientists approaching subjects from stem cells to pain and novel rehabilitation strategies.

But it was the panel discussion at the end of the session that generated the most vigorous debate.

When asked to tackle the sticky subject of their perceived barriers to progressing research from the laboratory to the clinic, somewhat surprisingly funding was low on the list.

National Adult Stem Cell Research Centre Director Professor Alan Mackay-Sim chose to be controversial describing the grant review process in Australia as vicious and competitive. He cited lack of support from others in the spinal cord injury field when grants were reviewed as a major problem.

Dr Giles Plant from the University of Western Australia backed this claim saying there was a need for more openness to collaborate and share results. He stressed the need to collaborate more internationally.

University of Melbourne researcher Professor Mary Galea said an appropriate set of outcome measures was the biggest barrier for her multi-centre rehabilitation clinical trial that began earlier this year. Professor Galea said current measures were insensitive and standardisation of outcome measures was vital. Other major difficulties included being able to recruit sufficient patients for large trials and training people to undertake such studies.

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