Our Story


Inside the Keck Center

The W. M. Keck Center for Collaborative Neuroscience is dedicated to multidisciplinary collaborative research and to accelerating the translation of scientific discoveries into effective human therapies.

The focus of the Center’s work is spinal cord injury with findings also applicable to persons with brain injuries, stroke, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, amyotropic lateral sclerosis (ALS), transverse myelitis, and other problems of the central nervous system.

The W. M. Keck Center operates on the belief that a cure is achievable and that collaboration is the means by which that goal will be reached.

We have embarked on one of the most ambitious journeys in human history: to achieve something that was deemed impossible by many generations of scientists and clinicians.

- Dr. Wise Young

A Brief History

Man giving speech at dedication

Determined to alleviate human suffering, in 1997 Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, established a world-class neuroscience center. The first-step in fulfilling that commitment was the recruitment of Dr. Wise Young to design and lead a unique program built on a problem-solving, collaborative approach to neuroscience. Dr. Young is recognized as one of the world’s outstanding neuroscientists and a leader in the field of spinal cord Injury.

The Center applied for and received a $2.1 million grant from the W. M. Keck Foundation, the largest grant given to an East Coast institution, resulting in the name: W. M. Keck Center for Collaborative Neuroscience. A series of Wall Street supported fundraisers under the banner ‘CURE’ broke existing records for fundraising in a single night. In 1998, a ‘Wall-Breaking Ceremony’ featuring paralyzed actor and activist Christopher Reeve marked the beginning of construction.

Eight highly recognized faculty members with a variety of expertise were recruited to facilitate the work of the Center. A team of skilled technicians facilitates the research.

Building the foundations for human clinical trials, the Center launched ChinaSCINet and the Hong Kong SCI Fund. In 2005 the first meeting of International Spinal Cord Injury Treatments and Trials (ISCITT) brought together 300 leading spinal cord injury scientists and clinicians from around the world, including the leading spinal cord injury institutions and researchers throughout Hong Kong and China.

Under the banner “The Spinal Cord Injury Project”, the Center organized rallies in Washington, D.C. to lobby Congress, and formed “Quest for the Cure”, a coalition of organizations and community people to pass legislation funding spinal cord injury research and the New Jersey Stem Cell Research Law which permitted all types of stem cell research in the state. In 2007, the Stem Cell Research Center, contiguous with the W. M. Keck Center, was dedicated by Acting Governor Richard Codey.

An agreement with StemCyte, Inc. intensified research using umbilical cord blood mononuclear stem cells. This laid the foundation for the launching of human clinical trials in Hong Kong and Kunming, China focusing on chronic spinal cord injuries. Several successful trials resulted. Clinical trial networks were built with plans to expand the trials in China, India, Norway, and the United States.

A commitment to the community of people with spinal cord injuries and their families resulted in the founding of the CareCure.org (originally SpineWire), the largest interactive website in the world, and the First Friday Open House Programs. These provide the opportunity for people around the world to learn the latest information about research and clinical trials and ask questions to experts and to other members of the community.

Our Center

Inside the Keck Center

The W.M. Keck Center for Collaborative Neuroscience is designed for team science and interactive communication.  Planned by Larry Wente and Sterling Plenart of Gertler & Wente Architects, the W. M. Keck Center for Collaborative Neuroscience adheres to three principles: the Center accommodates all the technologies needed for multidisciplinary studies; the design fosters collaboration; and, the facility not only is accessible to, but usable by, people in wheelchairs.  The design flowed from these principles. 

Adjacent to the Keck Center is the Rutgers Stem Cell Research Center (SCRC). The W. M. Keck Center operates the SCRC and works in collaboration with stem cell scientists throughout New Jersey and around the nation and world.

Facilities: The 10,000 square foot facility includes a large central laboratory with specialty areas dedicated to molecular, cellular, and tissue analyses, a state-of-the-art confocal facility, tissue culture laboratory, four-station animal surgery suite with separate animal holding area, four specialized laboratory spaces, offices, conference spaces, seminar room, machine shop, and staff lounge.  The Center is designed to be open, interactive, and handicap accessible.  The center is fully equipped to carry out high-volume studies of spinal cord injury models.  Its multi-user design facilities allow teams of surgeons and researchers to significantly boost productivity and capability in-house, with consortia of scientists, and with collaborating laboratories.

Eighty percent of the space is shared with all working spaces shaped to facilitate people collaboration.  All working surfaces are desktop for sit-down users. Under-the-counter refrigerators with double glass doors are accessible and located in the appropriate working areas.  To meet storage needs, each user is assigned one or more mobile rolling cabinets. To make the laboratory comfortable and home-like, the Center includes a comfortable wood-paneled staff lounge with refrigerator, microwave, and dishwasher.  Because people in wheelchairs cannot reach up high, there are no wall cabinets thus permitting the display of original art including several works created by people with spinal cord injuries.  The oval motif, use of wood and glass, choice of colors, and indirect lighting create an atmosphere that is warm and welcoming for staff and visitors but with a modern, high-tech look that befits the standard of research being conducted.

Equipment: The Keck Center is equipped with 4 thermal cyclers, a Axon GenePix 4000B microarray scanner, DNA gel equipment for electrophoresis, Applied Biosystems STORM phosphorimager and FluorImager595 scanner, Milli-Q water system, a Genetix QArray2 microarraying robot, Zeiss LSM510 confocal microscope with a Meta Detector, a Zeiss Automated Cell Scan System for Axiovert 200M, Zeiss 200M fluorescence microscope, two Hacker cryostat, two Atomic Absorption Spectrometers, a 96-well BioTek ELx800 UV/VIS spectrophotometer, Sorvall RC5C centrifuges, Sorvall RC3C centrifuges, Revco low temperature freezer, gel dryer, 2 Savant concentrators, and pumps. A TC lab is equipped with 3 laminar flow hoods and 4 Hera incubators. In the newly built RSCRC, the laboratory area is equipped with Eppendorf 5801R Centrifuge, Eppendorf Mastcyc Gradient with LCD control panel, Eppendorf MDL5301 Vacufuge, Fisher Cytofuge, Kodak Gel Logic 2200 system, and Nanodrop spectrophotometer. The NSC culture room is equipped with 3 laminar flow hoods, 4 Hera incubators and a Zeiss Axio Observer A1 microscope with a Zeiss Axiocam. The hES tissue culture room is equipped with 2 laminar flow hoods, 2 incubators, and a Olympus IX81 inverted fluorescence microscope.


Six seated at table below symposium banner

We believe that collaboration is a key component for advancing research and clinical trials and are committed to building networks and relationships with researchers and clinicians, institutions, corporations, legislators, and community organizations.

Researchers and clinicians: We work with researchers and clinicians around the world, including holding quarterly workshops on spinal cord injury research methods. This allows us to bring together a depth of scientific knowledge and skill. These connections advance research and form the foundations of our clinical trials. Among outstanding institutions we have worked with Hunter College, Burke Rehabilitation Center, Kessler Institute, Harvard University Stem Cell Institute, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, University of Connecticut Stem Cell Core, Shantou University Medical College, Hamburg University Zentrum fϋr Molekulare Neurobiologie, Beijing Institute for Medical Sciences, and Le Centre de Recherche de l’Institut Universitaire Quebec City, a number that continues to grow.

Corporations: We work with various corporations in collaborative partnerships. There are some things they do better than we do, and some things we do better than they do. Utilizing the expertise of each brings us closer and faster to our goal. Corporate collaborations have included work with StemCyte, Inc., Pfizer, Acorda Therapeutics, Johnson & Johnson, Celgene, BioAxone, SynGen, Otsuka, Auxocell, TRIM-edicine, Decibel Therapeutics, GE Healthcare, Audion Therapeutics, PTC Therapeutics, and many proprietary relationships.

Legislators: We work with legislators at both the federal and state level as both educator and advocates. We provide information and answer questions about the science in proposed bills and advocate for new laws to advance research and benefit the community of people with spinal cord injuries and other devastating neurological conditions. Working with legislators at the federal and state levels, we have provided information and support to pass spinal cord injury and stem cell legislation and funding in New Jersey and around the country, and Expanded Compassionate Use at the federal level.

The Community: We work for and with community organizations and committed individuals to advance research not only for spinal cord injury but for other neurological conditions. Combining voices is a critical factor in raising awareness and bringing about changes in attitude, supportive legislation, and funding.  Monthly Open House programs bring the latest information on research and clinical trials and the opportunity to ask questions. The Summer Open House features a keynote speaker, science displays, and vendor exhibits. Additional information is available through eBulletins, mailings, and our CareCure.org website.