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Press Release

Brain injury, pain experts explore critical need for human tissue to advance neurological research at NDRI scientific symposium Nov. 18

National Disease Research Interchange (NDRI)
Posted on: 19 Oct 16

The nation’s leading experts on brain injury, neurological disease and pain — including the doctor who took on the NFL proving repeated blows to the head can lead to permanent damage in athletes’ brains with his discovery of the neurological disease, Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) — will convene at Philadelphia’s Logan Hotel, November 18th for a robust discussion hosted by the Philadelphia-based National Disease Research Interchange (NDRI). This year’s scientific symposium focuses on the need for human tissue to advance diagnosis and treatment of painful and debilitating neurological maladies ranging from ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) to Traumatic Brain Injury.

“There are more than 600 known neurological disorders and conditions that affect the human nervous system and, for many of them, treatment options remain extremely limited,” said Mary J.C. Hendrix, PhD, chair of the board for NDRI and president of Shepherd University. “With 1.7 million traumatic brain injuries diagnosed in the U.S. annually — 350,000 military service members alone diagnosed over the past 15 years — an estimated 25.3 million adults experiencing chronic pain, and one in 88 U.S. children affected by Autism and Autism Spectrum Disorders, it would be difficult to overstate the impact of neurological diseases and pain on our society, or the importance of the conversation and partnerships this symposium will generate.”

In the keynote address, Dr. Bennet I. Omalu, the real-life physician portrayed by Will Smith in the film Concussion, will take a hard look at CTE in athletes, military veterans and others who have suffered multiple head traumas. In a career-defining breakthrough in 2002, Dr. Omalu identified CTE as a major factor in the death of “Iron Mike” Webster, the legendary Pittsburgh Steeler and Hall of Famer. Within five years of reporting on Webster’s case, Dr. Omalu identified CTE in eight more deceased NFL players. His findings were summarily dismissed — even ridiculed — at the time by his professional peers, the NFL and the sports industry. Today, CTE is generally accepted and Dr. Omalu’s findings have revolutionized neuroscience, sports medicine and safety, the study of all types of brain trauma, and the entire sports industry.

The symposium includes two scientific panels. The first, Relief: The Role of Human Tissue in Pain Research, sets the stage for the day, looking at chronic pain, which affects an estimated 25.3 million adults. Nearly 40 million experience severe levels of pain, and those with severe pain are more likely to have worse health statuses. Panelists, including representatives from the American Chronic Pain Association; the Yale School of Medicine; the Washington University Pain Center; AnaBios Corporation; the Department of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco; and Duke University, will discuss the impact of pain on society, as well as advances — and challenges — in discovering ways to help patients control pain.

The second panel, Impact: Brain Tissue as the Fuel of Scientific Discovery, highlights research-driven advances already helping patients — and those on the horizon offering great promise — thanks to a growing wave of advocacy for private donations of both healthy and diseased brain tissue. It features experts from the NorthShore University Health System and Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine; the University of Florida; the Patrick Risha CTE Awareness Foundation; the University of Pennsylvania, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center; the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences; and the Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative.

Those familiar with the film Concussion will also recall the story of Julian E. Bailes Jr., MD, a recognized leader in the field of neurosurgery and the impact of brain injury on brain function, who was portrayed in the film by Alec Baldwin. Dr. Bailes will participate in the second panel at the NDRI symposium.

“The research advancements — and research challenges — shared by our program panelists and distinguished keynote speaker will underscore that, without quality human biospecimens to support research, treatments and cures will remain elusive,” said Bill Leinweber, NDRI’s president and CEO.

“NDRI is on the forefront of fulfilling the biomedical research community’s needs for human tissue to advance research on pain, brain injury and neurological diseases,” he continued. “Our growing portfolio of neurological tissue programs includes partnerships with investigators in government, academic, corporate and patient advocacy organizations. NDRI is committed to being the premiere source of biospecimen tools that will contribute to deeper understanding of devastating brain disorders, brain injuries and the ravages of pain.”

Titled “From Donation to Discovery: Unlocking the mysteries of brain injury, neurological disease and pain through research with human biospecimens,” the symposium runs from 11:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and will be moderated by award-winning neuroscientific journalist Gary Stix, senior editor of Scientific American. NDRI’s annual Service to Science recognition dinner will be held at the Logan Hotel later that evening. Register online at

About NDRI

The National Disease Research Interchange is the nation’s leading source for human tissues, organs and cells for biomedical research. By serving as the liaison between donors and the research community, NDRI is uniquely positioned to support breakthrough advances and discoveries that can affect advances in the treatment and cure of human diseases. NDRI is a not-for-profit, (501c3) corporation founded in 1980, funded in part by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), public and private foundations and organizations, and pharmaceutical corporations.

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Last updated on: 19/10/2016

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