Thursday August 22, 2019
Mission Connect’s External Review Committee (ERC) arrived in Houston on April 24th for two days of presentations given by Principal Investigators (PI) of Mission Connect funded research. This is a highly anticipated scientific audit that provides us with critical feedback on our portfolio of investigations and insight into how Mission Connect can have an even greater impact on brain and spinal cord injury research.
Eleven members of the 17-member committee participated in the annual gathering and the PIs of fourteen projects, all funded in 2017, presented before the committee. TIRR Foundation staff and the Scientific Director of Mission Connect, Matt Rasband, Ph.D., joined the closed-door sessions to learn from the ERC as they discussed the research. On Friday, the official spring meeting of TIRR Foundation’s Board was held with the ERC. The ERC reported that Mission Connect is funding excellent research, and the breadth of areas under investigation is impressive. The committee identified research involving engineers, wearable robotic devices, and assisted rehabilitation as outstanding with Mission Connect having carved out an area of excellence in this new technology.
As in past reviews, the ERC praised Mission Connect for continuing to attract highly talented, early career investigators, many of whom are running their first lab. The potential for significant discoveries to develop within their labs is extremely good and supporting the scientists in their growth as researchers is a crucial role Mission Connect should undertake. The committee is very impressed with the new SCI talent at Texas A&M University recruited with Mission Connect funding.
The importance of monitoring the outcomes of our funding was discussed; and in response to this, we are investigating IT systems designed to track publications, carry-on grants, and subsequent discoveries. Given our heavy regional focus, we were pleased to learn that Mission Connect nationally recognized. We learned that reviewers in study sections at the NIH, DoD, Craig Neilson Foundation, and others are familiar with Mission Connect, its collaborative structure, and seed funding for novel research.
Towards the end of the meeting, Dr. Rasband asked the ERC, “is Mission Connect was punching above its weight?” The resounding reply was, “yes; Mission Connect is punching far above its weight.”