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Spinal Cord Injury & Disease Research


The Spinal Cord Injury/Disease Research Program (SCIRP) provides "seed" grants of up to $250,000 per award for research projects in Missouri that deal with (a) spinal cord injuries or (b) acquired/congenital diseases of the spinal cord ( see "Previously Funded"). Investigators new to the field and experienced investigators in other fields who wish to test novel ideas in anticipation of applying for larger grants elsewhere are especially encouraged to apply.

The SCIRP, which is administered through the UM System, was established by the legislature in 2001 to support research in Missouri that will advance scientific knowledge in the area of spinal cord injuries and congenital or acquired disease processes that affect the spinal cord. A major purpose of the grants, which had originally been limited to $50,000 per year, is to encourage investigators, particularly those new to the field, to do exploratory research and test new ideas, with the expectation that the most promising will justify more substantial support from external funding agencies, either public or private.  A new limit of $250,000 per award has just been enacted by the legislature and approved by the governor, and will be effective for proposals submitted after August 28, 2010.

The research supported in past years has ranged from studies of the basic biology of spinal cord injuries/diseases to work on improving the treatment and mobility of persons suffering from such conditions, and important contributions to the field have been made.  Some types of pilot studies that are potentially important but could not be conducted because of the earlier $50,000 limit (such as clinical research involving spinal cord injury patients) may now be feasible with the new maximum of $250,000.

This year we expect that several research grants will be awarded by the Board of Curators of the University of Missouri to investigators who are employees or staff members of public or private educational, health care, voluntary health associations or research institutions located in Missouri. The Missouri State Bills that established the SCIRP require that the entire research project will be conducted and completed within the state of Missouri. Based on the recommendation of the Advisory Board of the Spinal Cord Injury Research Program and approval by the University of Missouri Board of Curators, a maximum of up to $250,000 per award will be available for exceptional projects.

In accordance with sections 172.794.1 (5) and 172.790 (4) RSMo Cum. Supp. 2012, the research project, defined as, “any original investigation for the advancement of scientific knowledge in the area of spinal cord injuries and congenital or acquired disease processes”, must be conducted in Missouri.

The Advisory Board’s objectives for the grants are (1) to bring new investigators, and investigators who are experienced in other areas, into research on spinal cord injuries and diseases, and (2) to enable investigators, particularly those new to the field, to test new ideas on a small scale and then use the pilot data to develop subsequent competitive applications for long term funding from other sources. Investigators “new to the field” may include persons conducting dissertation projects, as well as postdoctoral research appointments for recent graduates. The UM SCIRP funds proposals in a number of areas involving pathological conditions of the spinal cord:

  • studies of spinal cord injuries that lead to paralysis, loss of sensation, spasticity, pain, etc.
  • research focusing on acquired spinal cord diseases, such as Friedreich's ataxia, multiple sclerosis (MS), poliomyelitis, ALS, SMA, scoliosis, spinal stenosis, cervical spondylosis, and others
  • investigations of congenital disorders (i.e. birth defects) affecting the spinal cord, such as spina bifida, scoliosis, Cobb syndrome, spinal AVMs, and others. 

Individual awards are not to exceed $250,000 per award and shall expire at the end of one or two years. Expenses should be for research purposes only and not for non-research expenses, including but not limited to items such as graduate student tuition and fees. Costs for overhead (i.e. indirect costs) are not allowed, and the research projects are to be conducted in their entirety within Missouri. For successful proposals, applicants and appropriate fiscal officers will be required to sign a standard agreement/contract form with the SCIRP that will outline the conditions pertaining to funding. Following the first year of funding, recipients may apply for one additional year of funding, provided the total award for the project does not exceed $250,000. Continuation of funding for a second year will depend on the results of the project during the first year and the availability of funds. A final report 90 days at the end of the project and a possible later follow-up report must be submitted to the Advisory Board. Investigators who have received SCIRP funds may not be allowed to reapply at a later time if these reports are not submitted when requested. Finally, the SCIRP is not intended to be a continuous source of funding for investigators, and following a given award and prior to reapplying to the program, it is expected that an investigator will seek funding from other sources, particularly external granting agencies.

The Advisory Board of Spinal Cord Injury Research Program will accept proposals at any time of the year (i.e. no submission deadlines).  The awards will be announced following an expedited review, which normally takes about two to three months. 

Previously Funded Researchers

Reviewed 2015-04-03.