Science Advisory Council

Conquer Paralysis Now is grateful for the support, knowledge and guidance our Scientific Advisory Council provides as we pursue the Challenge program.


Armin Curt, M.D., Ph.D.

Armin CurtDr. Armin Curt is currently Professor of Paraplegiology and spinal cord injury research at the University of Zurich and the Medical Director of the Spinal Cord Injury Center at University Hospital Balgrist. In 2001, he founded the European Multicenter Study in Spinal cord Injury (EMSCI) and has received several awards such as the IRP Schellenberg Prize in 2012 and the ISCoS Ludwig Gutmann lecturership in 2013.

He was awarded his Medical Degree in 1987 and became a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada for Neurology in 2005. His interests include neurological and neurophysiological assessment in human SCI. He aims to redefine the functional outcome measures for advanced application in clinical trials and to improve neuro-rehabilitation of the upper and lower limb function. 


William Dalton Dietrich, III, Ph.D.

William Dalton DietrichOver the last 35 years, Dr. Dalton Dietrich and his colleagues have made unprecedented discoveries in neuroprotection and are also working on using novel cellular and drug treatments to promote functional recovery after brain and spinal cord injury (SCI). Dr. Dietrich obtained his Ph.D. from the Medical College of Virginia in 1979 and completed his post-doctoral fellowship at Washington University in 1981. He is currently Scientific Director at the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis. He was the sponsor of a first-in-man FDA-approved clinical trial testing the safety of human Schwann Cell transplants in people with severe subacute SCI. Additionally, he serves on a number of grant committees such as NIH and the Department of Defense.

James Fawcett, Ph.D.

James FawcettJames Fawcett is Chairman of the John van Geest Centre for Brain Repair at the University of Cambridge. His main interest is the repair of central nervous system (CNS) damage, particularly the in spinal cord. The main focus has been to work out how both axon regeneration and plasticity are turned off in the adult CNS, and how to restart them. He also works on interfacing electronics with the damaged nervous system and on the design of protocols for clinical trials in spinal cord injury.



Itzhak Fischer, Ph.D.

Itzhak FischerItzhak Fischer is Professor and Chair of the Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy at Drexel University College of Medicineandco-director of the Spinal Cord Center. Hecompleted his PhD in Cell and Molecular Biology at the University of California Irvine and served on the scientific committees of the NIH, Neilsen Foundation, NJ Commission of spinal cord injury and TIRR Foundation. His research applies strategies of gene therapy and stem cell biologyto promote regeneration and repairin spinal cord injury. Recently, the transplantation studies have been focused on the role of glial progenitors in producing permissive astrocytes, and of neuronal progenitors in forming relays to reestablish connectivity across the injured spinal cord. This approach provides a stem cell strategy for the reconnection of disrupted sensory and motorsystem and a framework for neuronal cell replacement in the CNS. 

Jen French

Jen FrenchJen French provides an important role on the Council as a voice for the spinal cord injury community. As a result of a snowboarding accident in 1998, French became a quadriplegic from a spinal cord injury. A year later, she became the first woman to receive an implanted neural prosthetic system, which allows French to stand again with the help of electrical stimulation to her lower extremities. Prior to her injury, she was recreationally active with sports and SCI has not prevented her from carrying on with these activities thanks to her determination and positive attitude. In fact, she became a silver medalist in sailing at the 2012 Paralympic Games in London. Through a nonprofit organization, Neurotech Network, she currently advocates for and educates about neurotechnology; medical electronics that interact with the human nervous system. 

Fabrizio Gelain, Ph.D.

Fabrizio GelainDr. Fabrizio Gelain is Co-Director of the Centre for Nanomedicine and Tissue Engineering in Milan and Head Unit at the IRCCS Casa Sollievo Della Sofferenza-Mendel Institute in Rome. Dr. Gelain completed his Ph.D in Biomedical Engineering at the Polytechnic of Milan in 2005. His research interests include design and characterization of novel functionalized SAPeptides, CAPeptides and electrospun scaffolds for tissue engineering applications and, in particular, for the regeneration of spinal cord injuries and stroke. Spanning from basic science to translational research, Dr. Gelain's research aims at the development of effective therapies in the fields of regenerative medicine and nanomedicine.

Shawn Hochman, Ph.D.

Shawn HockmanDr. Shawn Hochman received his Ph.D. at the University of Manitoba, Canada in 1989. His broad research interests are associated with neuromodulation-based spinal plasticity and align with studies on dysfunction in sensory, motor and autonomic integration after spinal cord injury. He has been the recipient of numerous research awards related to the field of spinal cord injury research area, including from the NIH and DoD and has co-written numerous research publications.

Hochman is currently Professor of Physiology and Director of the Neuroscience Graduate Program at Emory University. He is a regular member of the Clinical Neuroplasticity and Neurotransmitters [CNNT] study section at the NIH and a permanent member of the Craig H Neilsen Foundation Scientific Review Board.

Hideyuki Okano, Ph.D.

Hideyuki OkanoHideyuki Okano is a Physiology Professor and the Dean of the Graduate School of Medicine at Keio University in Tokyo. He is also a visiting Professor at the University of South Wales, and an Honorary Professor at the Queensland Brain Institute in Australia.

He conducts basic research in the field of restorative medicine including: neural stem cells and iPS cells, spinal cord injury, developmental genetics and RNA binding proteins. He has received numerous awards and honors including the Medal with Purple Ribbon in 2009, and the Stem Cell Innovator Award at the GeneExpression Systems Inc. & Apasani Research Conference in 2014. He sits on several boards including the International Society for Stem Cell Board, and is also the Editor-in-Chief of the Inflammation and Regeneration journal. 


Marie-Claude Perreault, Ph.D.

Marie-Claude PerreaultMarie-Claude Perreault is an Assistant Professor of Physiology at Emory University and received her Ph.D from the University of Montreal. Research in her laboratory focuses on brainstem control of spinal networks. The laboratory’s aim is to better understand the normal capabilities of subcortical descending pathways and the potential of these pathways in functional recovery after cerebral palsy, stroke and spinal cord injury. Her research is of relevance for the design of rationale rehabilitative strategies directed at promoting recovery of motor and autonomic function.