Dr. Monica Perez Earns Elite Grant from NIH to Create Breakthroughs in SCI Science

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Dr. Monica Perez Earns Elite Grant from NIH

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The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) — part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) — has awarded Monica A. Perez, PT, PhD, with the intensely competitive and prestigious R35 grant to create breakthroughs in spinal cord injury science and therapy. This grant is in recognition of Dr. Perez's distinguished scientific work and her potential for future breakthrough discoveries.

The R35 grant will provide funding over the next eight years for Dr. Perez's research as she continues to lead Shirley Ryan AbilityLab’s Arms + Hands Lab as scientific chair.

This grant funds my vision for research. I'm proposing to help people with paralysis from the acute to the chronic phase of spinal cord injury, a goal that is feasible precisely because I'm at Shirley Ryan AbilityLab.

Monica A. Perez, PT, PhD, Scientific Chair, Arms + Hands Lab, Shirley Ryan AbilityLab

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R35 grants are uniquely designed to provide longer-term financial support to research programs, and are not project-dependent. By providing eight years of funding, the grant increases freedom for distinguished scientists to take greater risks and pursue novel research directions as they arise. This approach is by design: with R35s, NIH aims to allow elite scientists to spend less time writing grants, and more time to pursue discoveries. They are an esteemed honor from one of the world's foremost medical research centers.

This award is only given to the most eminent scholars who rate in the outstanding level for their productivity, scholarship and leadership in their field.

Richard L. Lieber, PhD, Chief Scientific Officer and Senior Vice President, Research, Shirley Ryan AbilityLab

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Dr. Perez's grant award is based on her extensive work studying brain and spinal cord adaptation to spinal cord injury, and the use of neuromodulation to enhance recovery. Over the course of this new R35 grant's eight-year cycle, Dr. Perez will expand her investigations into irregularities above and below the site of the injury to the spinal cord, specifically targeting these areas.

"Basically, this type of grant funds my vision for research," said Dr. Perez. "It's a real honor and it comes at such a good time in my career. I'm proposing to help people with paralysis from the acute to the chronic phase of spinal cord injury, a goal that is feasible precisely because I'm at Shirley Ryan AbilityLab."

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According to Richard L. Lieber, PhD, chief scientific officer and senior vice president, Research, this R35 grant confirms Dr. Perez's status as a superstar in the scientific world.

"This award is very rare, and only given to the most eminent scholars who consistently rate in the outstanding level for their productivity, scholarship and leadership in their field," he said. "Typically, less than 10 percent of the applicants — all of whom must have at least two major concurrent NIH grants — actually succeed in receiving this grant."

Dr. Perez says receiving this R35 grant from NINDS is special because her relationship with the agency has spanned her entire career, starting with a summer program for PhD students on the institute's Maryland campus.

"I was a summer student at NINDS in 2002," she said. "That was the first thing that crossed my mind when I received this grant: how my relationship with NINDS is a long-term and treasured one. I have spent my whole career with NINDS."

"We celebrate you, Monica, for this exemplary achievement," Dr. Lieber said. "We salute you for your scientific acumen, professional leadership and passion for your work, which reveals a devoted ethic. Moreover, we are so proud of you and thank you on behalf of patients around the globe for setting new directions in rehabilitation and making breakthrough progress in spinal cord injury recovery."

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