Case | HBS Case Collection | June 2008 (Revised July 2008)

The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis

by Robert Steven Kaplan, Christopher Marquis and Brent Kazan

Abstract

Marc Buoniconti is the co-founder of the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, a nonprofit medical research organization. The project was founded in 1985 by Marc and his father Nick, a former Hall of Fame football player, when Marc suffered a spinal cord injury. In 2007, Marc was still confined to a wheelchair, but the Miami project had developed into the world's largest spinal cord injury research and treatment center. It had 250 employees, operated from a $37 million state of the art facility located on the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine campus, and had raised in excess of $275 million since its inception. However, there was still no cure for spinal cord injury, and many of the project's supporters were becoming anxious for a substantial clinical breakthrough. Fundraising was always a concern, particularly as government spending on research was declining. Marc and his father were keenly aware of the challenge of maintaining the enthusiasm and financial backing of the Miami Project's supporters. Yet they needed to avoid over-promising regarding the likelihood of potential breakthroughs, which required painstaking research and stringent clinical trials. The leadership also questioned whether the mission should remain focused on spinal cord injury, or whether it should broaden to include brain trauma and other neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. Case provides an opportunity to discuss the challenges of non-profit management, medical research and to debate appropriate strategy for the Miami Project in 2007.

Keywords: Investment; Giving and Philanthropy; Health Testing and Trials; Leadership; Growth and Development Strategy; Mission and Purpose; Research and Development; Nonprofit Organizations; Health Industry; Miami;

Citation:

Kaplan, Robert Steven, Christopher Marquis, and Brent Kazan. "The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis." Harvard Business School Case 408-003, June 2008. (Revised July 2008.)