Coalition for Brain Injury Research Gives $100,000 to Establish a Brain Cell Regeneration Research Program.

The Coalition’s most recent gift was $100,000 to establish a brain cell regeneration research program at the Neurological Institute of New Jersey. It will be used to fund research at the Neurological Institute of New Jersey that focuses on brain cell regeneration as a potential treatment and cure of brain injuries. It will also fund an annual lecture on the latest developments in brain cell research. The Neurological Institute is located at UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School in Newark.

Dennis and Rosalind Benigno
“Several universities are conducting research that could result in treatments that reverse–or at least ameliorate–that debilitating problems experienced by patients with serious brain injury,” Mr. Benigno said. “But I believe New Jersey has the resources with the pharmaceutical industry and its research institutions of higher education, such as UMDNJ, to take the lead and make serious inroads in the development of effective treatments and a cure.”

Dr. Patrick Pullicino, chair of the Department of Neurosciences at UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School, agreed. “I understand how important developing effective treatments for debilitating brain injuries are because my area of expertise is stroke. We have many researchers at UMDNJ working on various aspects of brain cell regeneration and I believe we will make serious contributions to this devastating health problem.” Dr. Pullicino is co-medical director of the Neurological Institute of New Jersey.

Brain repair research currently being conducted is focused on projects such as cell transplantation, stem cell research, gene therapy and nerve growth stimulation, all of which have the potential to reverse the effects of severe brain injury.

This is the second grant the Coalition for Brain Injury Research has made to UMDNJ. Dr. Ellen Townes-Anderson received a $25,000 grant last year for a research project involving re-establishing communication among new and existing neurons in the optic nerve.

Mr. Benigno and his wife, Rosalind, founded the Coalition for Brain Injury Research in 1996 because their 33-year-old son, Dennis John, has been totally disabled for the past 18 year as the result of a being struck by a car in 1984. “Unlike many deteriorating brain diseases, brain injury caused by a traumatic event is swift and all too often, even with excellent rehabilitation, irreversible and devastating,” Mr. Benigno said. “Many organizations are actively engaged in educating the public about preventing brain injuries, but we felt there was a void in the number actively engaged in promoting research in brain cell repair.”

At the state level, the coalition has been working with Assemblymen Peter Eagler

(D-34th) and Willis Edwards (D-34th), and Senators Nia Gill (D-34) and Joe Vitale (D-19), prime sponsors of the proposed Brain Injury Research Act, which would levy a $1 charge on traffic fines and create a commission to distribute the funds for research focused on brain injury.

Mr. Benigno has also been working with Congressman Bill Pascrell Jr. (D-NJ-8th) and the Congressional Brain Injury Task Force, which Pascrell founded in 2001. The panel works with representatives from the National Institutes of Health and other organizations involved in brain injury to increase awareness on Capitol Hill of the need to fund research in this area. The bi-partisan task force currently has 50 members from the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate.

“After meeting with Mr. Benigno, I decided that brain injury could no longer be a ‘silent epidemic,'” Pascrell said. “The coalition he has founded is in the forefront of promoting research to develop treatment options that will lead to a cure. This new partnership with the Neurological Institute is a critical step toward meeting this goal.”