Praxis 2023 Year-in-Review
Collaboration Drives Impact
For us at Praxis Spinal Cord Institute, impact only happens when we improve the quality of health for people living with spinal cord injury (PLEX) and the spinal cord injury (SCI) community as a whole. During 2023, we’ve focused on collaboration to drive impact. Through integrating PLEX collaboration Praxis is a hub for SCI research, innovation and excellence on projects that make meaningful change.
As always, our work would not be possible without the generous support of our funders and donors. With a donation today, you can help Praxis continue making an impact in 2024 and improve quality of health for people living with SCI.
Advocacy and Meaningful Engagement
2023 saw the arrival of Barry Munro as Associate Director of PLEX Engagement (People with Lived Experience of SCI) at Praxis. As you know, one of our unique characteristics is engagement with PLEX early, frequently and throughout projects in order to direct focus on only innovations, best practices and care that make a difference for the SCI community. This is how we make sure that projects we work on and support are truly meaningful, improving quality of life for the SCI community and creating impact. Barry, who has been actively involved in spinal cord injury research for 35 years and has been part of many Praxis projects, is a fierce advocate for SCI advocacy. And for this reason, we’ve been promoting the NASCIC advocacy course for everyone and anyone in the SCI community.
The PLEX team organized three Indigenous Gatherings this year, building from the initial event held in Vancouver, BC in 2022. The meetings aim to support and build relationships with the Indigenous SCI community in order to learn more about priorities and needs. Facilitated by Richard Peter, Praxis Indigenous Peoples’ Liaison and Spring Hawes, Regional PLEX Engagement Liaison from Praxis, the gatherings took place in BC. Feedback from attendees will help focus future health systems and research activities for Indigenous people with SCI. Learn more
Interior SCI Care Summit Bringing best practices throughout the province, and making SCI care accessible helps the SCI community living outside SCI specialized centres. Building from the Interior SCI Health workshops held in 2022, the PLEX and Care teams helped our Praxis Regional PLEX and Clinical Liaisons with a one-day Interior SCI Summit. The event, held in Kelowna drew over 90 stakeholders from across the SCI community (and approximately 50 online) to learn best practices and establish a regional network in BC.
Translating Knowledge into Solutions
Praxis Commercialization programs advance and translate SCI research and innovation, accelerating solutions into the hands of those who need it. Mentored by our networks of international researchers, health care professionals, entrepreneurs, and investors, SCI Accelerate and SCI Incubate program companies hear directly from people with lived experience of SCI (PLEX).
Highlights from alumni companies this year include:
Naqi Logix, a BC-based company and SCI Validate alum has been recognized for their smart ear buds. The neural earbuds are equipped with powerful sensors that pick up facial micro-gestures, changes in air pressure, and head position. Described by Naqi’s inventor Dave Segal as “a safe, noninvasive, universal, invisible, and silent command and control system”, they are equipped with an array of sensors that can pick up subtle facial movements including eye blinks or turning the head. These translate into control signals for digital devices such as smart-home tech, wheelchairs as well as augmented reality. The company gained attention, landing a coveted spot on TIME Magazine’s Best Inventions of 2023. New fans of the tech include Vancouver former Mayor and ex-Praxis Board member, Sam Sullivan, who took the Naqi earbuds for a test drive recently, as shown in this video from Global News.
Comphya a Swiss medical device company and SCI Accelerate alum, is developing the first implantable neurostimulator to treat erectile dysfunction (ED). This offers a safer, non-traumatic, comfortable, spontaneous and more effective alternative to traditional treatments. Comphya has reported a number of successes this year, starting with recruitment for ongoing clinical trials. This has led to the first implant surgeries, including one person with SCI.
SpineX, an SCI Accelerate alum and medical device company developing neuromodulation devices leveraging cutting-edge research, has reported a number of successes this past year. These include bladder management following stroke, and mobility support for children with cerebral palsy.
SCI Climate Futures
In 2023, Praxis Spinal Cord Institute launched SCI Climate Futures as an emergency response to the health issues posed by the ongoing BC heatwave crises. The first phase was a rapid response program for British Columbians, providing free cooling devices to individuals with disabilities, such as an SCI and multiple sclerosis that make them vulnerable to extreme heat. This phase was served in collaboration with BC Hydro. A second phase, whichaims to identify and accelerate the adoption of innovative technologies for sustainable and accessible cooling solutions, has been launched. “AccessCool: Innovations for a Climate-Ready Future” is a pitch competition ending with a presentation to a panel of industry experts, clinicians, and end-users. There are two streams, Innovative Portable Technologies and Innovative Novel Technologies for the Built Environment.
Our SCI colleagues and Praxis team continue to publish research papers, scoping reviews and guidelines. In collaboration with our SCI partners and grants recipients, publications cover a diverse set of subject areas in SCI.
Nader Fallah, Associate Director, Artificial Intelligence and Vanessa Noonan, Director, Research & Best Practice Implementation from Praxis, along with Dr. Lisa Sharwood at the University of New South Wales in Australia, were co-editors of a special issue in Frontiers in Neurology. The focus was on evidence-based care and outcomes in spinal cord injury and there are papers describing topics such as the epidemiology of traumatic SCI in Canada and the implementation of a web-based tool to predict ambulation after SCI. The articles are freely available and for more information see:
The Canadian Spinal Cord Injury Practice (Can-SCIP) Guideline, includes published SCI clinical practice guidelines covering the continuum of SCI care that are selected through the consensus of an expert SCI panel. This Praxis-funded project is led by Dr. Mark Bayley and Dr. Cathy Craven aims to improve SCI care and is freely available online. The Can-SCIP team recently created the Can-SCIP Coach app to assist clinicians in identifying the most relevant guidelines by asking a series of questions related to person’s injury, sex and phase of care. Thirty to forty percent of patients do not receive appropriate evidence-based SCI care and so resources such as the Can-SCIP Guideline and the Can-SCIP Coach app will keep clinicians up to date on best practices. CAN SCIP Coach App
The Praxis-AO Spine Acute SCI Guidelines make sure that best practices in care are available widely, to help standardize SCI care across Canada and internationally. Developed in part from Praxis-supported and B.C.-based research, the guidelines will inform SCI acute care management. Topics include the role and timing of surgery, hemodynamic management and management of intra-operative spinal cord injury. The project is led by Dr. Brian Kwon and Dr. Michael Fehlings, who are both long term collaborators with Praxis, along with Dr. Lindsay Tetreault and Dr. Nathan Evaniew. These guidelines will become part of the Canadian Spinal Cord Injury Practice (Can-SCIP) Guideline (see above paragraph).
Amazing Community Support
This summer, the Shim’s Ride team once again donated over $23,000 from their annual fundraiser to Praxis Spinal Cord Institute. The fundraiser began as a way for friends of Mathew (Shim), who was injured in August 2019 while out on a bike ride, to raise awareness of SCI and funds. This year’s event was a criterion bike race & community BBQ in Victoria, BC where local physiotherapist Evan Phillips raised funds by donating partial proceeds from each physiotherapy and bike fit appointment at his Dockside Physio clinic during the month of July.
Sharing the News
Praxis partners with the SCI community at home and across the world helps drive our work to improve quality of life for people with SCI. We were pleased this year to welcome five new leaders to our Board of Directors, and to make a Funding Announcement to highlight the researchers we’re supporting. As a global hub, we recognize and appreciate our partners, from our Board of Directors who oversee and share wisdom and insight in our operations, to the keen minds of the research community.
To learn more, check out our Annual Report 2022:
Annual Report For a roundup of some of our work we do each year, please check out our Annual Report for 2022. Collaboration Drives Impact showcases projects in partnership with innovators, the Indigenous SCI community, researchers and community partners. Find out how collaboration and working together are accelerating theory into practice, bringing clinical best practices, medical technology, and more to benefit the SCI community in Canada and beyond.