Nick and Marc Buoniconti, University of Miami President Donna E. Shalala, Jackson Health System President and CEO Carlos A. Migoya, and other dignitaries gathered on April 29, 2015 to celebrate the groundbreaking of the Christine E. Lynn Rehabilitation Center for The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis at University of Miami/Jackson Memorial Medical Center.

“UHealth and Jackson provide not only South Florida, but the world with first-class health care across all areas of medicine,” Shalala said. “By combining our shared excellence in neuroscience research, clinical care and rehabilitation, we will be able to provide the most advanced and comprehensive care for patients with spinal cord and brain injuries.”

Christine E. Lynn, whose generous donation of $25 million helped spearhead the fundraising for the center, was on hand to ceremonially break ground on the rehabilitation building. The remaining funds to build the new rehab center will come from a designated portion of the $830 million general obligation bond overwhelmingly supported by Miami-Dade voters in 2013 to upgrade Jackson’s infrastructure and build new facilities.

Once completed, the Christine E. Lynn Rehabilitation Center will offer state-of-the-art rehabilitation that will unite the spinal cord and brain injury clinical, basic science and translational research excellence of The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine with the clinical and rehabilitation expertise at Jackson Memorial Hospital.

“The generosity of Christine Lynn and the community of Miami-Dade toward this project is helping cement Miami’s reputation as a global destination for cutting-edge rehabilitation,” said Migoya. “When paralysis is cured, the smart money bets it will happen at the Christine E. Lynn Rehabilitation Center for The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis at UHealth/Jackson.”

Pascal J. Goldschmidt, M.D., Senior Vice President for Medical Affairs and Dean of the Miller School of Medicine and CEO of UHealth, said, “Our scientists, clinicians and technicians at The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis are leading the way in exploring Schwann cell transplantation to treat spinal cord injuries. This new center for treatment and rehabilitation will help us provide extraordinary care for our patients.”

The rehabilitation center will be constructed on the corner of Northwest 12th Avenue and 16th Street on the UM/Jackson Memorial Medical Center campus near downtown Miami. The facility will be modeled after some of the nation’s leading rehabilitation centers and will encompass comprehensive inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation services. The 100-bed, private-room facility will offer an exemplary inpatient experience for those dealing with some of the most challenging injuries. The Christine E. Lynn Rehabilitation Center will also allow proximity to the necessary rehabilitation that accompanies the multiple clinical trials for those dealing with life-altering spinal cord and brain injuries currently led by Miami Project researchers at the medical center.

“Christine has been a true angel to those of us suffering from spinal cord and brain injuries. Her support of The Miami Project over the years has been a game changer in terms of catapulting our research, and now rehabilitation, to new heights. This facility will combine UM/Jackson’s efforts to the ultimate benefit of those unfortunately facing these life-altering injuries,” said Marc Buoniconti, president of The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis.

“I have been truly moved by Marc Buoniconti’s perseverance and determination, to not only get out of his wheelchair, but to help others who are dealing with paralysis through The Miami Project,” said Mrs. Lynn. “As a former nurse, I know how difficult it can be to face paralysis and brain injuries and am eternally grateful knowing that I am able to make a difference in the lives of people suffering from debilitating accidents and diseases. The Christine E. Lynn Rehabilitation Center will be the place where we will help make miracles and change lives.”

Miami Project to Cure Paralysis
In 1985, Barth A. Green, M.D. and NFL Hall of Fame linebacker Nick Buoniconti helped found The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis after Nick’s son, Marc, sustained a spinal cord injury during a college football game. Today, The Miami Project is the world’s most comprehensive spinal cord injury (SCI) research center, and a designated Center of Excellence at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. The Miami Project’s international team is housed in the Lois Pope LIFE Center and includes more than 300 scientists, researchers, clinicians and support staff who take innovative approaches to the challenges of spinal cord and brain injuries.

This is an unbelievable time for The Buoniconti Fund and The Miami Project’s research and for medical history. In late July 2012, the Food and Drug Administration gave permission to The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis to begin a revolutionary Phase 1 clinical trial to evaluate the safety of transplanting human Schwann cells in patients with acute (recent) spinal cord injuries. Found mainly in the peripheral nervous system, Schwann cells are essential to sending appropriate electrical signals through the nervous system, and Miami Project scientists and supporters believe they are key to finding cures for paralysis. The Miami Project physicians and researchers have enrolled the first participants in this Phase 1 clinical trial, part of the Christine E. Lynn Clinical Trials Initiative at The Miami Project. These first participants are doing well and the team is moving forward with the trial. In parallel to this acute study, The Miami Project has begun a human Schwann cell transplantation clinical trial in chronically injured individuals. Millions of people living with chronic spinal cord injury paralysis (those paralyzed for a year or more) may benefit from this experimental procedure.