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 to Create Breakthroughs in SCI Science

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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 extremely competitive and prestigious R35 grant in recognition of her outstanding record of research productivity and potential for future breakthroughs.

This grant provides 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 provide longer-term support to research programs, and are not project-dependent. By providing eight years of funding, the R35 arrangement increases freedom for scientists to take greater risks and pursue new 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 on their research.

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 her R35's eight-year cycle, Dr. Perez will expand her investigations into changes above and below the site of injury to target therapy efforts.

"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, Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, this R35 grant confirms Dr. Perez's status in the scientific world.

"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," 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 grant from NINDS is special because her relationship with the agency has spanned her 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 one. I have spent my whole career with NINDS."

"We congratulate you, Monica, for this outstanding achievement," Dr. Lieber said. "We salute you for your scientific acumen, professional leadership and work ethic. And, we also thank you on behalf of our patients for setting new directions in rehabilitation."

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