News

June 12th, 2014

The Edmond and Lily Safra International Institute of Neuroscience Kicks Off the 2014 FIFA World Cup

Walk Again Project via Twitter

It was the shot seen around the world by billions of TV viewers: a paralyzed young man symbolically kicking off football’s classic event in Brazil, on June 12, 2014.

This achievement resulted from years of innovative research led by the Edmond and Lily Safra International Institute of Neuroscience (ELS-IINN) in Natal, Brazil, along with an international team of scientists. In the ‘Walk Again’ project, researchers created an exoskeleton that receives mental commands and transforms them into movement.

This accomplishment was made possible by Mrs. Lily Safra’s support of the work of Professor Miguel Nicolelis. He not only established a world-class neuroscience center in a region where there was nothing like it before, but also a new model for social transformation through science: providing advanced scientific education to thousands of children at the Alfredo J. Monteverde schools, and healthcare for women and infants.

The symbolic kick-off at the opening ceremony was made by Juliano Pinto, a 29 year old man who lost the use of his legs following a car accident. Juliano shared his success with the seven other paraplegic patients from the Association for Assistance to Disabled Children (AADC) in São Paulo who trained with the exoskeleton in the lead-up to the World Cup opening ceremony.

The ‘Walk Again’ kick-off is not an end in itself, but one more inspiring step on a journey to understand the human brain. 

Mrs. Lily Safra, President of the Edmond J. Safra Philanthropic Foundation stated:

“The Walk Again kick-off demonstrates the remarkable progress made in our understanding of the brain and in our ability to overcome the obstacles of illness. But there is still a lot to be done; neuroscience research around the world should be able to count on continued support, both private and public, so that cures for neurodegenerative diseases can be found quickly.” 

The exoskeleton practices the historic kick

The Edmond and Lily Safra International Institute of Neuroscience at the forefront of modern brain science research and innovative treatment

Neuroscientists at the ELS-IINN have contributed to some of the technological breakthroughs that made it possible for the Walk Again Project to implement a brain-controlled exoskeleton and train 8 paraplegic patients to take advantage of this new technology and start a journey towards regaining the ability to walk autonomously again.

In addition to its participation in the Walk Again Project, a group of ELS-IINN's scientists also contribute to the development of innovative neuroscience treatment solutions – from new prosthetic limbs controlled directly by thought, to new therapies for Parkinson’s disease, a series of scientific breakthroughs and discoveries point to a very promising future for neuroscience at the ELS-IINN.

The ELS-IINN is on the forefront of modern brain research mission: to understand the basic physiological principles that govern the operation of the human brain and discover new therapies for those affected by brain diseases. As such, the ELS-IINN scientific staff works on a variety of programs aimed at seeking new treatments for several neurological disorders, including paralysis and neurodegenerative diseases.

ELS-IINN as a new model for social development

The ELS-IINN was created based on a shared dream - the idea of Professor Miguel Nicolelis to develop a neuroscience research center in his native Brazil that would promote scientific knowledge as an important driving force to enhance social and economic progress, and the desire of Mrs. Lily Safra, Chairwoman of the Edmond J. Safra Philanthropic Foundation, to advance research and treatment for neurodegenerative diseases and to improve educational opportunities for disadvantaged children. Featuring two neuroscience research centers, an innovative science education curriculum for children, implemented at the ELS-IINN’s two schools and named in memory of Alfredo J. Monteverde, and a prenatal care program, the Anita Garibaldi health center, the ELS-IINN's decade long history has impacted profoundly the lives of thousands of people living around it.   

Each year, up to 1500 teenagers from the public school system are given the chance to take part in a hands-on science education program aimed at enhancing their scientific knowledge through creative thinking and experimental work (including chemistry, physics, engineering, robotics, and many other subjects), performed in state-of-the-art laboratories. In this ebullient environment, students are inspired to continue their education for life, so that, one day, they too can see their dreams become reality and their impossible ideas come to fruition for the benefit of humanity.

The seminal role of Mrs. Lily Safra and the Edmond J. Safra Philanthropic Foundation

Mrs. Lily Safra made the largest ever private donation to scientific research in Brazil in 2006 to develop the country’s pioneering neuroscience research center under the direction of Prof. Miguel Nicolelis. The center was renamed the Edmond and Lily Safra International Institute of Neuroscience of Natal (ELS-IINN) to recognize this vital contribution. Subsequently, the Edmond J. Safra Philanthropic Foundation made a similar multi-million dollar donation for the further development of the ELS-IINN. Research conducted at the ELS-IINN was fundamental for the success of the Walk Again project.

For more information on the Edmond and Lily Safra International Institute of Neuroscience please visit: http://www.natalneuro.org.br/

Edmond J. Safra Foundation
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