Finding a cure is an important goal of research on brain diseases. However, to patients and their loved ones, research that can help preserve or restore functional ability in their daily lives is just as crucial. This was one of the takeaways from the first annual WSU Translational Medicine Symposium held last week at the Providence Auditorium in Spokane.

The symposium brought together researchers, entrepreneurs, physicians, patients, and caregivers to share knowledge about treatment innovations and key issues related to brain diseases, the theme for this inaugural event.

Photo of ALS patient Matt Wild and his wife Theresa Whitlock-Wild
Assisted by his wife Theresa, Matt Wild talks about life with ALS during the symposium’s clinical problems discussion panel. (More event photos available on our Flickr page)

Throughout a varied program of presentations and lectures, the symposium showcased progress being made toward better treatment and care for individuals with ALS, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, brain tumors, and other debilitating brain conditions.

Attendees got an up-close look at a novel, head-worn device designed for non-invasive treatment of brain tumors; heard a WSU researcher talk about his discovery of small molecules that can restore lost mental and motor functions in neurodegenerative disease; and learned about the use of smart-home technology to extend independent living. They also marveled at technology that captures an individual’s brainwaves and turns them into music or art, allowing people with ALS the freedom to continue to pursue creative projects when they can no longer use their limbs.

Challenges in Search of Solutions

The event also included a clinical problems discussion panel that offered patients, caregivers, and health care providers a chance to put forward specific issues and challenges patients face during the course of their disease and advocate for solutions.

The idea for the Translational Medicine Symposium emerged during an external review of innovation and entrepreneurship activities within WSU that was completed earlier this year. President’s Distinguished Visiting Professor Glenn Prestwich, who led the review, has overseen a similar event at the University of Utah for the past five years.

Prestwich said the symposium provides opportunities for innovators to turn ideas into solutions that can help patients. “It helps the university grow and diversify research by connecting faculty to unmet needs in the community,” he said.

The Translational Medicine Symposium was sponsored by WSU Health Sciences Spokane and the WSU Office of Research in partnership with the Providence Neuroscience Institute at Sacred Heart. Partial funding for the event was provided by the Stier Memorial Endowment, which funds the Robert F.E. Stier Lecture in Medicine.