VANCOUVER – The world’s largest, most advanced and most comprehensive facility devoted to spinal cord injury research and patient care was opened today by Premier Gordon Campbell, Rick Hansen and members of the health care and spinal cord research community.
“The Blusson Spinal Cord Centre goes beyond any other facility in the world in bringing spinal cord patients together with outstanding researchers and health-care professionals,” said Premier Campbell. “This fully accessible building will be the most fertile ground anywhere on the planet for the discovery of breakthroughs to help people fully adapt to their injuries. Through this facility, we are providing the tools to improve the lives of thousands of British Columbians and people around the world – and bring us closer to finding a cure for spinal cord injuries.”
The six-storey, $45-million centre is home to ICORD, which stands for International Collaboration on Repair Discoveries and is a partnership of the University of British Columbia, the Rick Hansen Foundation, the Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute, and the VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation. ICORD has more than 300 researchers working to develop strategies that will help people adapt to and recover from spinal cord injuries.
“Most of what we know about spinal cord injuries has been discovered over the past decade, and the Blusson Spinal Cord Centre will accelerate the pace of those discoveries,” said Ida Chong, Minister of Technology, Trade and Economic Development, who is responsible for research and innovation. “Government’s $12.9-million investment in the centre builds on the $17.25 million we’ve already invested in the past six years to benefit people with spinal cord injuries, and is one of many reasons B.C. is known for world-leading research and innovation.”
The Blusson Spinal Cord Centre is fully accessible, with no need to display the wheelchair disability sign, and integrates research with care. The centre is home to the Brenda and David McLean Integrated Spine Clinic, which provides one-stop outpatient care for people with spinal cord injuries or diseases of the spine. Rick Hansen Foundation programs including the Spinal Cord Injuries Solutions Network and the Rick Hansen Wheels In Motion and Ambassador programs are also located in the centre.
“The realization of this dream will have an extraordinary impact on the community of people living with spinal cord injury across this country today, and those who will be injured in the future,” said Rick Hansen, president and CEO of the Rick Hansen Foundation. “The community of experts, who make up this entire building, will work together to find solutions that improve lives today and move us closer to a cure. I’d particularly like to thank Dr. Stewart and Marilyn Blusson for their contribution, and all the partners who believe in the power of collaboration and partnership to make a difference in the lives of others.”
The Province’s contribution comes from the B.C. Knowledge Development Fund. Other funding was provided by the Canada Foundation for Innovation, the University of B.C. and Vancouver Coastal Health. The Blussons, for whom the facility is named, contributed $8.75 million through the Rick Hansen Foundation.
“Most patients with spinal cord injuries in British Columbia enter the health-care system at VGH, so it is vital that researchers and caregivers have an environment where they can work together to optimize recovery,” said Ida Goodreau, Vancouver Coastal Health’s president and CEO. “This wonderful new centre will influence the care of our patients even before they land on the helipad, and will allow them to return to their communities having experienced a more dramatic recovery than otherwise possible.”
“Interdisciplinary collaboration is one of the exciting features the new Blusson Spinal Cord Centre offers to attract and retain outstanding researchers from around the world,” said UBC president Stephen Toope. “UBC is proud to be a partner in spinal cord injury research. This new world-class centre also provides a unique opportunity to train the next generation of spinal cord researchers.”
The Province has previously contributed $17.25 million to spinal cord injury research and quality of life – $2.25 million to the B.C. Leadership Chair in Spinal Cord Research at the Rick Hansen Institute at UBC and $15 million to the Rick Hansen Foundation in support of its ongoing work to help improve the lives of people with spinal cord injuries.
“The Blusson Spinal Cord Centre project was the catalyst that enabled ICORD to rapidly evolve and expand to be the world’s largest and most comprehensive spinal research centre,” said Dr. John Steeves, founding director of ICORD and holder of the John and Penny Ryan B.C. Leadership Chair in Spinal Cord Research. “Within the past five years, this increased capacity has generated increased knowledge and patents, which have been translated into improved clinical practices and products.”
Almost $345 million has been approved by the Province under the B.C. Knowledge Development Fund since 2001, supporting research at public post-secondary institutions, teaching hospitals and affiliated non-profit agencies. This funding has leveraged $379 million from the Canada Foundation for Innovation and another $283 million from other non-provincial government sources, for a total investment in British Columbia’s research infrastructure of over $1 billion.
“The Blusson Spinal Cord Centre is an impressive example of the type of partnership that is essential to ensure Canada’s ongoing leadership in research and innovation,” said Dr. Eliot Phillipson, president and CEO of the Canada Foundation for Innovation. “The CFI is very proud to be a partner in this venture.”