Dr. Brian Kwon, Canada Research Chair in Spinal Cord Injury and Marcel Dvorak Chair in Spinal Trauma at Vancouver General Hospital (VGH), has donated $1 million in award winnings to establish a “Living Lab” for spinal cord injury research and care, centred at VGH, UBC, and the Blusson Spinal Cord Centre.

“I believe a better future for injured patients is possible, and I see it in the work my colleagues and I are able to accomplish with the help of philanthropy,” says Dr. Kwon.

“This is why it was an easy choice for me to give back. This is bigger than me. This is about the future of spinal cord injury research and our vision for curing paralysis.”

Dr. Kwon received the inaugural Visionary Prize from the Craig H. Neilsen Foundation for his distinctive contributions to the world of spinal cord injury (SCI). The $1 million prize specifically recognized Dr. Kwon’s global leadership, visionary science, landmark advances, and collaborative spirit to accelerate scientific and clinical progress in the SCI field.

Dr. Kwon decided to donate the entire award of $1 million to further fund the work he and his colleagues are undertaking, including helping to establish the “Living Lab” for spinal cord injury at VGH.

The “Living Lab” is a novel idea which aims to ensure that patients who suffer a catastrophic spinal cord injury and are brought to VGH have access to the most advanced treatments and cutting-edge research studies to maximize recovery. It also will enable patients to be part of the scientific discovery process that will enhance and inform novel personalized medicine approaches.

“The idea is to create a continuous cycle of care and research, to ensure that VGH remains at the forefront of spinal cord injury treatment for the benefit of all British Columbians,” says Dr. Kwon. “I think the system so far has allowed us to provide exemplary, state-of-the-art care. But I think that there is a lot that we can do to expand the opportunities for many more of our patients to be part of cutting-edge research studies and receive novel therapeutic approaches”.

“We have to change the centuries-old story of spinal cord injury,” he says. “Instead of accepting permanent paralysis after SCI, we must work towards a future where the application of scientific innovation can restore these patients to full physical function.”

Dr. Kwon’s $1 million donation to support this vision is part of a larger drive to bring in and nurture the next generation of spinal cord injury experts at VGH, allowing British Columbians to be the first to benefit from their clinical breakthroughs.

“It’s absolutely worth the investment,” adds Dr. Kwon. “It’s about fast-tracking cutting-edge research and pushing hard to make it beneficial for patients.”

VGH is a centre for excellence in spinal cord injury research and treatment, and cares for the most complex spinal conditions in patients, no matter where they are in B.C.

Learn more about Dr. Brian Kwon’s research