Dr. Brian Kwon wins inaugural Craig H. Neilsen Visionary Prize

Screenshot from CNF website showing inaugural winners of the CNH Visionary Prize

L-R: Andrea Dalzell , Brian Kwon, Reveca Torres

ICORD Associate Director of Clinical Research, Dr. Brian Kwon, is one of three winners of the inaugural Craig H. Neilsen Visionary Prize. Dr. Kwon and co-winners Andrea Dalzell and Reveca Torres, will each receive US$1 million for their distinctive contributions and demonstrated excellence in the world of spinal cord injury, in honour of late entrepreneurial leader Craig H. Neilsen.

The Visionary Prize honours the memory and legacy of Craig H. Neilsen, an American entrepreneur who was severely injured in a car accident in 1985, leaving him quadriplegic, with only minimal function of his left hand. Nevertheless, Craig’s tenacity and extraordinary focus fuelled his success in business after his accident. The prize recipients reflect many of the qualities for which Craig was well known, including his remarkable determination, inexhaustible passion, and an ability to inspire those around them.

“All of us at ICORD are thrilled to learn about this Inaugural Visionary Prize going to one of our colleagues,” said ICORD Director, Dr. Wolfram Tetzlaff. “We are immensely grateful to the Craig H. Neilsen Foundation for recognizing the outstanding and tireless contributions that Dr. Kwon has made and continues to make in SCI research. I had the privilege of mentoring his PhD, and have watched his career develop for more than twenty years. I could not be more proud of huge honour he has received today. This rivals the Nobel Prize in magnitude, and raises awareness of how research, care delivery, and activism are making a difference for people living with SCI.”

“This is a significant award and recognizes Dr. Brian Kwon’s exceptional contributions to the field of spinal cord injury. He is helping to strengthen translation capabilities by accelerating the transfer of research to care, and improving the lives of people with spinal cord injury here in Canada and around the world,” said Dr. Dermot Kelleher, Dean of UBC’s Faculty of Medicine and Vice President, Health at UBC.

“For the millions of people living with spinal cord injuries around the world, research and technology have profound impact on people’s rehabilitation and quality of life. This award to leading researchers like Dr. Brain Kwon will advance our understanding of how existing treatment, therapeutics and clinical practice can contribute to addressing the burden of traumatic spinal cord injury,” said Dr. Robert McMaster, Vice-Dean of Research for the UBC Faculty of Medicine and Executive Director of the Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute.

Dr. Brian Kwon with a large group of students and staff from his lab,

Dr. Kwon with members of his lab, 2019.

“I am so humbled and grateful to be recognized by the Neilsen Foundation with this award,” said Dr. Kwon. “While it is in my name, I feel that it really is a recognition of the remarkable people that I have had the opportunity to work with through the years – amazing mentors, brilliant collaborators, great partners and organizational partnerships – all striving to make a difference for people living with SCI,” he added.

Brian Kwon has made several landmark contributions to SCI treatment and rehabilitation in his dual role as an attending orthopaedic spine surgeon at Vancouver General Hospital (VGH) and a scientific researcher at ICORD. Dr. Kwon has sought to bridge the gap between scientific discovery and clinical practice with translational research studies that are truly relevant to people with SCI. These include studies of how blood pressure management could be optimized to enhance recovery after SCI and how the biological responses to injury can be used to identify new targets for treatment. With the support of the Rick Hansen Foundation, Dr. Kwon has established a biobank to share valuable SCI tissue specimens with other scientists in an effort to help the international research community move forward faster in the search for new therapies. Learn more about his research here.

Read more about the Craig H. Neilsen Visionary Prize and learn about the two other winners here.