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For Release:
August 12, 2008

Heather Howard

For Further Information Contact:
S. Patricia Cabrera
(609) 984-7160

New Jersey Awards Seven Research Grants to Promote Traumatic Brain Injury Research


The New Jersey Commission on Brain Injury Research (NJCBIR) has awarded seven grants totaling $5.3 million for traumatic brain injury (TBI) research.


In 2004, New Jersey became the first state to allocate a continuing funding source dedicated to finding a cure for brain injuries.


Between 12,000 and 15,000 New Jersey residents suffer brain injuries from traumatic events each year. Approximately 1,000 of these injuries are fatal. Approximately 175,000 New Jersey residents currently live with disabilities from traumatic brain injuries.

Motor vehicle crashes, falls, assaults, and self-inflicted injuries are the leading causes of traumatic brain injury.

“Wearing seat belts and safety helmets are precautions everyone should take to protect themselves against brain injuries,’’ said Health and Senior Services Commissioner Heather Howard.

“The Department of Health is committed to funding the best research that can lead to cures and new treatments that will improve the quality of life for those who have suffered traumatic brain injuries,” the Commissioner said.

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) has become a major public health problem, especially among male adolescents and young adults ages 15 to 24, and among the elderly and young children.


Traumatic brain injury has also become the signature injury suffered by members of the U.S. military serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. A new generation of combat survivors will have to learn how to deal with complex physical injuries and traumatic brain injury.


"The research funded through these grants will allow scientists to develop strategies and interventions to limit primary and secondary brain damage and to devise therapies to treat brain injury and improve long-term recovery of function," said Dennis Benigno, NJCBIR Executive Director. "These innovative investigations show much promise of repairing the injured brain and developing a cure for traumatic brain injury."

Disabilities resulting from a TBI depend on the severity of the injury, the location of the injury, and the age and general health of the patient. Some common disabilities include problems with cognition (thinking, memory, and reasoning), sensory processing (sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell), communication (expression and understanding), and behavior or mental health (depression, anxiety, personality changes, aggression, acting out, and social inappropriateness).

The Commission is funded through a $1 surcharge on all traffic violations issued in New Jersey.


Grants were awarded to:


  • Dr. Martin Yarmush, Rutgers University of New Jersey:  If successful, this research could lead to neural regeneration in the injured brain. $327,275
  • Dr. Peter Dowling, University of Medicine and Dentistry, VBRI:  This research could lead to a clinical intervention for post-traumatic neuronal death after TBI.  $491,286
  • Dr. John W. Glod, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School: This research could prove an effective therapy that can be performed at most medical centers.  $330,000.
  • Dr. Smita Thakker-Varia, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School: This project describes studies of a very important neuroprotective molecule (BDNF) and its effects in TBI.  $495,000.
  • Dr. Wilma J. Friedman, Rutgers University of New Jersey:  This investigation will test a specific hypothesis that would link inflammation following brain injury with a known molecular mechanism of cell death, possibly providing a rationale for pharmacological therapy to limit brain injury.  $495,000.
  • Dr. Steve Levison, University of Medicine and Dentistry:  The goal of this proposal is to identify strategies to enhance regeneration of brain cells and recovery of function after traumatic brain injury.  $1,234,736.
  • Dr. Bonnie Firestein, Rutgers University of New Jersey:  This project could set the stage for potential neural regeneration therapies. $1,980,000.


The NJ Commission on Brain Injury Research maintains, in conjunction with the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services, a central registry of all persons who sustain traumatic brain injuries.


Information on future grant rounds, eligibility and applications is available on the NJBIR web site at


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