Atlanta, GA,
08:57 AM

Igniting Creativity and Advancing Innovation

At the Innovation Institute in the new Marcus Center for Advanced Rehabilitation, researchers, engineers, clinical scientists, and designers will explore real-world applications of research and technology to provide extraordinary care to more people.

Innovation is at the core of Shepherd Center’s culture. The new 30,000-square-foot Innovation Institute, which will occupy the top floor of the Marcus Center for Advanced Rehabilitation on Shepherd Center’s main campus and is slated to open in 2025, will strengthen Shepherd’s innovative spirit and cement its reputation as a model for cutting-edge research and unparalleled clinical care.

“We're positioned as an innovation hub because we are leaders in the field. We collaborate with like-minded partners to advance rehabilitation medicine and find better, more efficient ways of delivering care to improve the lives of the people we serve,” says Deborah Backus, PT, Ph.D., FACRM, Shepherd Center’s vice president of research and innovation. “The Innovation Institute is a natural extension of that — giving us more capabilities, space, and resources to foster our ingenuity.”

The vision for the institute is to integrate rigorous research, data science, groundbreaking rehabilitation and assistive technologies, and revolutionary care models to restore, sustain, and protect the lives of people requiring neurorehabilitation worldwide.  At its core, the institute will use data to develop and guide point-of-care precision rehabilitation and the creation of new technology solutions.

Once completed, the Innovation Institute will bring existing research and technology teams throughout the hospital into one space, inspiring even more collaboration. Human-centered designers, biomedical and rehabilitation engineers, data scientists, clinical scientists and coordinators, people with disabilities, and other partners will gather around tables and whiteboards, brainstorming and creating solutions. The Innovation Institute will be a home for even more robust data analytics. Data will continue to drive clinical care, helping Shepherd Center experts identify the most meaningful and effective solutions for patients.

Here’s a look at some of the programs, labs, and workshops the new facility will house:


Virginia C. Crawford Research Institute

In the Crawford Research Institute, researchers develop, refine, and evaluate new treatments, medications, diagnostic tools, and therapeutic interventions in spinal cord injury, brain injury, multiple sclerosis, and chronic pain. The expansion will allow the Hulse Spinal Cord Injury Research Lab, an integral part of the Crawford Research Institute, to be in the same space. The Hulse Lab pioneers the development of rehabilitation interventions that optimize the functional abilities of people impacted by spinal cord injury.

Travis Roy Ability Bar

The Travis Roy Ability Bar will provide mainstream as well as innovative devices created through co-innovation by our patients, clinicians, and academic and industry partners, for patients to try before they buy, to help them learn what is possible, and help them return to a fully, integrated, productive life. 

An Innovative Design Workshop

In this workshop and training space, dedicated staff will use advanced 3D printing and other advanced technologies to create prototypes for small-batch production of adaptive technology solutions. Team members will also train people with disabilities and students on how to develop affordable solutions.

An Assistive and Rehabilitation Technology Showroom

The showroom will connect users and product developers, allowing people with disabilities to test and try technologies and smart home solutions before they buy them. It will also allow product developers to learn first-hand from people with disabilities about what they need to live the fullest life possible.  

Highest Performance Lab

A fully outfitted assessment and evaluation suite will allow motion analysis and behavioral data collection for people with disabilities to identify their needs for health, wellness, function, and the best quality of life in their homes and communities.

Best Health Suite

Partnering with health and wellness solution generators and technology companies, Shepherd will offer on-demand and live wellness and fitness classes to Shepherd patients, partners, and people worldwide, at Shepherd and in their homes and communities, with the goal of breaking down barriers to care for the people Shepherd serves.


Together, all these exciting initiatives mean the Innovation Institute will provide an opportunity to deliver Shepherd’s extraordinary care to more people at a larger scale.

“Our clinical care is cutting edge, and we want to keep it that way,” Backus says. “The Innovation Institute will enable us to be more effective and efficient in delivering individualized solutions, helping the people we serve, and increasing accessibility to our world-class care.”

For more information on Shepherd’s research and innovation programs, please visit

Written by Leslie Jackson and Ruth Underwood

About Shepherd Center

Shepherd Center provides world-class clinical care, research, and family support for people experiencing the most complex conditions, including spinal cord and brain injuries, multi-trauma, traumatic amputations, stroke, multiple sclerosis, and pain. An elite center recognized as both Spinal Cord Injury and Traumatic Brain Injury Model Systems, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News as one of the nation’s top hospitals for rehabilitation. Shepherd Center treats thousands of patients annually with unmatched expertise and unwavering compassion to help them begin again.