EPILEPSY Research UK has announced funding for four new projects this week, valued at £1.25 million, as part of its annual research awards.
Alongside three Innovations in Healthcare Urgent Research Projects awarded earlier this year, the new projects all aim to capacity build the epilepsy research environment and develop the next generation of researchers. The funding was announced ahead of National Epilepsy Week, which runs this week (24th–30th May).
The charity has awarded two Emerging Leader Fellowship Awards, one in collaboration with Young Epilepsy, which is specifically designed to retain and advance promising early-career scientists into research leadership. Epilepsy Research UK has also invested in two Doctoral Training Centres, a new initiative that will support institutions in Newcastle and Edinburgh to create ‘PhD hubs’, attracting young researchers to the field of epilepsy, facilitating further investment, and directly contributing to vital research.
Maxine Smeaton, CEO, Epilepsy Research UK, said:
“Building a strong research community is one of our key strategic priorities as a charity and an area we feel we can have a significant impact. Through these Fellowship awards and the Doctoral Training Centre Grant scheme, we’re making great progress in keeping the brightest minds focussed on epilepsy.”
The Emerging Leader Fellowship Award is awarded to Dr Gareth Morris, University College London, to explore an exciting new area of gene therapy. Dr Morris said:
“Whilst we do have a wide array of medicines to treat epilepsy, treatments are still often not optimal, and in extreme cases, we still can’t control people’s seizures. My fellowship will explore gene therapy, one of the most exciting recent development in treating drug-resistant epilepsy. Using a new type of genetic switch, we will create a new type of gene therapy that is highly specific with minimal adverse effects.”
The Epilepsy Research UK & Young Epilepsy Fellowship Award is the first-ever joint fellowship between the two charities and aims to revolutionise child brain imaging. The investment has the potential to transform brain scanning for children and young people by making ‘bedside brain imaging’ a reality.
Fellowship awardee Dr Tim Tierney said:
“Children have difficulty remaining still in conventional brain scanners, and this movement degrades image quality. Our new sensor will enable surgical planning at a much younger age, for many more children, at a reduced risk and cost.”
Epilepsy Research UK’s newly funded Doctoral Training Centres (DTCs) in Newcastle University and the University of Edinburgh will secure aspiring researchers into the field of epilepsy and develop a workforce for the future.
Professor Andrew Trevelyan and Dr Rhys Thomas are lead researchers of the Epilepsy Research UK & Newcastle University DTC, which will create a school of future leaders in epilepsy research across six innovative projects. The projects will cover three areas of epilepsy research: how seizures happen, how to predict when seizures occur, and how to prevent seizures. The Epilepsy Research UK & University of Edinburgh DTC will be led by researchers Professor Richard Chin and Professor Cathy Abbott. This centre will provide funding for seven PhD students whose research projects will focus on improving outcomes for childhood-onset epilepsies, from mechanisms through to treatment.
Both Doctoral Training Centres will bring together researchers from different disciplines in cutting-edge projects with a common goal of ‘a life free from epilepsy’ and address the vital need to retain the brightest and best within epilepsy research.
This investment means that 15 new studies will be taking place across the country, involving over 60 researchers, including collaborators in the U.S. and Australia. Epilepsy Research UK is now funding 58 research projects nationally.