Ahead of this year’s World Stem Cells & Regenerative Medicine Congress, Total Biopharma caught up with David Nicholls, Founder of the Nicholls Spinal Injury Foundation.
David, who will be participating in the plenary panel on ‘Using cell therapy to enable spinal cord regeneration’ alongside Prof. Geoffrey Raisman (Chair, Neural Regeneration, Institute of Neurology, University College London), Prof. Trevor Jones CBE (Member, Board of Trustees, UK Stem Cell Foundation) and Josie Pearson MBE (Gold medal-winning Paralympian, London 2012), looked back over what he thought was the biggest achievement from the last year as well discussing his views of future potential within the spinal injury sector moving forward.
1. What do you think has been the biggest achievement within the spinal injury sector in the last 12 months?
The work of Professor Raisman and Dr. Tabakow in which they reconnected a severed spinal cord in the case study of Darek Fidyka, which was published in Cell Transplantation journal last year. Darek regained motion and sensation below the level of injury after cell transplantation and rehabilitation.
2. When do you think we will start to see a number of cell therapies in mainstream healthcare systems when it comes to treating spinal cord injury?
This is impossible to predict as it relies on discussions between all the agencies involved, and also on further trial outcomes. However there is growing awareness about the potential here. The research we are funding for example has achieved some milestones recently, such as peer review and publication, which puts it on a path to mainstream healthcare, although there is a lot more to be done before it gets there. I am optimistic we could see this development within 5 years.
3. What is key to them achieving market access?
Building on the successes achieved at earlier stage trials by wider scale human application, to prove therapies are translatable and reliable for humans. There also needs to be extensive dialogue between the health authorities, the “third sector” and other funders, and the medical community to understand ethical issues and financial models for delivering these treatments to the public.
4. Who (person or company) do you think will be the ‘next big thing’ within the spinal cord injury sector? And why?
The work of Professor Geoffrey Raisman and Dr. Tabakow stands out to me as being at an advanced stage within this sector when it comes to a possible treatment. This is the reason that I personally, as I have a son with a spinal cord injury, have chosen to support this work.
They were part of what was probably the highest-profile breakthrough in the field last year, and as one of the charities behind the project we are very hopeful this success is the start of a treatment for spinal injury. Of course years more painstaking work are necessary before the scientists know whether the technique will be widely applicable to help paralysed patients regain function. But the small-scale trials planned do have the potential to really change the outlook for spinal cord injured people.
Want to hear more from David?
Meet him and the rest of the highly esteemed spinal injury panel at World Stem Cells & Regenerative Medicine Congress 2015 – click here for more information on this panel and the rest of the programme.