Grill Team Wins Competitive Neuromod Prize

July 12, 2022 | Michaela Kane

Warren Grill and his collaborators developed a winning vision for their neuromodulation therapy

Warren Grill

Warren Grill

Warren Grill, the Edmund T. Pratt, Jr. School Distinguished Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Duke University, and his collaborators are one of eight teams to win the first phase of the prestigious Neuromod Prize competition. Each team received a $100,000 prize and was selected to advance to the second phase of the competition.

The Neuromod Prize is a competition supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Common Fund’s Stimulating Peripheral Activity to Relieve Conditions (SPARC) program that aims to support the development of targeted neuromodulation therapies. Neuromodulation involves regulating nervous system activity for a specific therapeutic benefit. By strategically stimulating the brain, spinal cord or peripheral nervous system, researchers have been able to relieve pain, prevent seizures and even improve and restore organ function.

During the first phase of the competition, participants were invited to submit neuromodulation concepts and development plans that can help treat different diseases and improve human health.

Grill’s project, “Closed-Loop Bioelectronic Control of Bladder and Bowel Function,” described how his team could restore bladder and bowel function by electrically stimulating a specific spinal nerve. This therapeutic approach could be used to treat multiple issues, ranging from more benign disorders like overactive bladder and constipation to the complete loss of bladder and bowel control following a spinal cord injury.

“The vision that we described is the culmination of over fifteen years of research with important contributions from myriad team members,” said Grill.

For the next phase of the competition, the Grill team will submit a proof-of-concept study showing the potential of their therapy. Phase 2 is expected to begin later this year. If they are successful, the winners of this phase will receive a portion of an up to $4 million prize pool, and they will be invited to participate in the final phase of the competition.

“We are excited to continue our work and energized by the potential clinical impact of our proposed solution,” said Grill.