The Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation announces a new collaboration with Houston’s Rex A.W. Marco, MD, a spinal surgeon and musculoskeletal oncologist who was paralyzed in a bicycle accident in 2019.
The Rex Marco, MD, Fund of the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation (the Marco Fund) has been created with a $1.1 million gift from Dr. Marco’s Spine and Extremity Tumor Research Endowment and will help accelerate research toward cures for spinal cord injury (SCI) and provide advocacy support and resources to improve quality of life for those impacted by paralysis.
The Marco Fund will focus primarily on the Houston area initially and will expand over time to serve individuals and families across the country and beyond, a media release from Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation notes.
“As a physician and as someone who lives with a spinal cord injury, I believe strongly that cures are possible – but only if we work together.
“Through this collaboration and ongoing donor support of the Marco Fund at Reeve, gifts will be maximized and channeled to the scientific endeavors that have the greatest potential for success.”
— Dr Marco, formerly of Houston Methodist Hospital
A Life-Changing Accident
Marco was riding his bike in Memorial Park in July 2019 when his tire got stuck and he flipped over the handlebars, landing on his head. Acutely aware that he may have sustained a catastrophic injury, he went into “full doctor mode,” instructing a friend on how to avoid worsening his injury and coordinating his own emergency surgical care.
“I knew I had broken my neck, and I was paralyzed. It was important to accept that. There was no turning back.”
Marco was diagnosed with quadriplegia and underwent emergency surgery.
Despite heartbreak – “I knew I probably would never hold my unborn baby,” says the father of four sons, including his now one-year-old – Dr. Marco believes his accident has given him newfound understanding and empathy for his own patients and is part of a larger plan for his life, the release continues.
“I don’t know yet what that plan is, but I’m gaining clarity and my partnership with the Reeve Foundation is part of it.”
The Marco Fund’s $1.1 million gift to the Reeve Foundation will fund research initiatives, including support for GTX Medical, a leading global company committed to developing novel neuromodulation therapies to improve functional recovery of people with SCI.
GTX, launched in late 2019, recently received FDA Breakthrough Device Designation for its Go-2 system, an implantable device that provides targeted epidural spinal stimulation therapy designed to help SCI patients restore leg motor function and neurological control. It is also conducting a pivotal clinical trial for its wearable LIFT device system (which received FDA Breakthrough Device Designation in 2017) for clinical rehabilitation therapy and home-use by patients with upper limb paralysis after SCI.
The LIFT system delivers electrical pulses through a patented waveform to restore the communication between the brain and the spared neural networks below the injury, the release explains.
A New Role
Among his roles within the Foundation, Marco will serve as Chief Medical Ambassador for Reeve Research Collaborations and will also join the Reeve Foundation Quality of Life Grant Program Committee, which reviews nonprofit grant proposals for projects and initiatives that impact and empower people living with paralysis, their families and caregivers, per the release.
“The Marco Fund is just the beginning of our collaboration, and we look forward to the role that Dr. Marco will play in helping advance an audacious research and advocacy agenda with the Reeve Foundation and our entire community.
“With his unique perspective – that of a physician and someone living with SCI – Dr. Marco will be at the center of an agenda that drives innovation across the care-cure continuum and brings together the scientific arena, industry, and the individuals and families living with paralysis in bold new ways.”
— Peter Wilderotter, President and CEO of the Reeve Foundation
[Source(s): Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, PR Newswire]