Published: 2023-04-17 21:03
Last Updated: 2023-09-29 06:23
When the Wings for Life Foundation was set up by Dietrich Mateschitz and Heinz Kinigadner in 2004, only a small number of projects were focusing on fundamental research – and above all, there was far too little funding. This all changed at the latest when the Wings for Life World Run made its debut in 2014. And so a special anniversary is being celebrated this year – on May 7, people all over the world will come together for the 10th Wings for Life World Run, to run for those who can’t.
CEO of the Wings for Life Foundation Anita Gerhardter is already looking forward to the event: “This run is something very special. Anyone can take part and all entry fees are donated to a good cause.”
- Spectacular past -
After all, it’s about motivating as many people as possible to take part when the Wings for Life World Run celebrates its 10th anniversary. Every year, history is written worldwide in this unique race. For example by Nina Zarina, who lives in the USA and has won four out of nine World Runs. Or by Aron Anderson from Sweden, who has made the winners’ list no fewer than three times in his wheelchair, leaving all runners behind him.
Even aside from these heroic feats, this unique run has a truly unparalleled success story. At the time of writing, over a million participants have been caught up by the Catcher Car, the mobile finish line that is a key feature of this race. To date, a total of EUR 38.3 million has been raised in donations, all of which are invested in research. The Wings for Life World Run 2022 alone yielded EUR 4.7 million in donations, due to the 161,892 participants from 192 countries.
Gerhardter said: “The more money we raise, the more studies we can help fund – and the faster we can reach our overall goal.”
- Highly promising research findings -
Thanks to the financial support provided by Wings for Life, researchers all over the world are currently able to look for solutions in a number of different areas. For example, Professor Michael Kilgard from the University of Texas is working on stimulation of the vagus nerve, which would allow people with spinal cord injury at a high level to move their hands again. Or Grégoire Courtine, from the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland, who has used electrostimulation to enable people with spinal cord injury to walk a few steps again. Another key area is the research presently being undertaken by Professor Stephen Strittmatter. This includes a study at Ohio State University on “Nogo Trap”, which allows the body to regenerate severed nerve fibers, thereby restoring a neural network.
A total of 276 different projects have been provided with funding so far, after going through a strict selection procedure. Scientific Coordinator for Wings for Life Verena May explained saying: “There are currently 74 research projects around the world, including 16 new ones since 2022. These focus mainly on regeneration, reconstruction and secondary damage.”
- When will there be a cure? -
This all enables Gerhardter to state unequivocally: “Even though there will never be a wonder pill that cures all cases, great progress has been made over the past few years. There has been a whole host of interesting developments. For some time now, it has no longer been a question of whether there will ever be a cure but rather when this will be. The Wings for Life World Run is playing a key role here by raising both valuable donations and awareness.”