Epilepsy Research UK awards research grant to Dr Vincenzo Marra of the University of Leicester

Posted by pt91 at May 22, 2015 12:17 PM |
Epilepsy Research UK announces 9 new research grants for 2015, to advance our understanding of epilepsy – including University of Leicester project investigating epilepsies caused by trauma

Issued by University of Leicester Press Office on 22 May 2015

A reception at the Royal Society provided the setting for Epilepsy Research UK to announce the latest round of research grants for 2015.  Coinciding with National Epilepsy Week, Mr Leigh Slocombe, Chief Executive,  informed the invitees of ERUK’s commitment to fund a total of 9 new research projects vital to furthering our knowledge and understanding of epilepsy; ranging from improving diagnostics to identifying possible future treatments.

An 8-month pilot grant to research into ‘Alterations in vesicular dynamics at excitatory and inhibitory synapses in chronic neocortical epilepsy’ has been awarded to Dr Vincenzo Marra and his team of researchers.  They will explore the role of structures known as vesicles, which help neurons to communicate, in the development of epilepsy. They hope to find novel treatment targets for new drugs.

Dr Vincenzo Marra, from the University of Leicester’s Department of Cell Physiology and Pharmacology, said: “We will be working to understand what happens in the brain in epilepsies caused by a trauma, in the hope of finding a therapy to prevent or cure these forms of acquired epilepsy.”

Epilepsy research is underfunded in the UK so the grant awards made by Epilepsy Research UK significantly increase the pool of research being undertaken into this poorly understood condition.  Over the last five years ERUK has provided over a third of all research funding* into better understanding the condition: its diagnosis, treatment and possible cure.

Chief Executive Leigh Slocombe says: “I have seen first hand the medical advances that have come from research that we have supported.  Research holds the key to so many unanswered questions about the condition.  If we can fund more research we can make more breakthroughs and transform more lives”

The grants:

Grant Number 1:

A 24-month project grant has been awarded to Dr Jason Berwick and colleagues at the University of Sheffield.  This will explore how seizures spread within the brain.  Ultimately this could lead to the development of new, more effective, treatments.

Grant Number 2:

Dr Susan Duncan, at the Western General Hospital in Edinburgh has been awarded a 36-month project grant to investigate whether there are particular traits that make people susceptible to death as a result of their epilepsy. If successful, this could lead to early identification and the possible prevention of some deaths.

Grant Number 3:

Dr Gonzalo Alarcon and colleagues of King’s College London have been awarded a 24-month project grant which will explore a new type of brain stimulation therapy as a potential option for people who don’t respond to anti-epileptic drugs.

Grant Number 4:

A 24-month project grant has been awarded to Dr Andrew Trevelyan and colleagues, at Newcastle University. The project will explore the early changes that can occur after a brain injury, which can lead to the development  of epilepsy. The team hopes to identify targets for new drugs that can prevent this process.

Grant Number 5:

A 36-month project grant has been awarded to Professor John Terry, at the University of Exeter.  The project, entitled ‘An optimal computer model for the diagnosis and prognosis of focal epilepsies’, aims to validate a computer-based tool that could significantly improve the accuracy of epilepsy diagnosis and ensure more rapid access to the most appropriate treatment.

Grant Number 6:

Dr Vincenzo Marra, at the University of Leicester has been awarded an 8-month pilot grant to explore the role of structures known as vesicles, which help neurons to communicate, in the development of epilepsy. They hope to find novel treatment targets for new drugs.

Grant Number 7:

Professor Stefano Seri and colleagues, at Aston University and the University of Birmingham, have been awarded a 24-month pilot grant.  Their research aims to determine whether non-invasive scanning before epilepsy surgery in children can predict cognitive problems later on.

Grant Number 8:

A 6-month pilot grant has been awarded to Dr Jacqueline Foong and colleagues, at University College London to investigate how the frontal areas of the brain contribute to depression in temporal lobe epilepsy. This will lead to increased understanding of depression in epilepsy and, potentially, new more effective treatments.

Grant Number 9:

A 12-month pilot grant has been awarded to Professor Roland Jones, at the University of Bath.  Professor Jones, alongside his team at the Universities of Newcastle and Aston, will look at how to maximise the viability of human living brain tissue that is collected for epilepsy research. This will make tissue research more efficient and cost-effective.


For more information:

Please visit our website at http://www.epilepsyresearch.org.uk/ or email info@eruk.org.uk

Or contact:  Deborah Pullen, Communications Director, at Deborah@eruk.og.uk or

Leigh Slocombe, Chief Executive, at Leigh@eruk.org.uk

or call us on 020 8747 5024

Notes to Editor:

Photo: available on request

  • over 600,000 people nationwide with a diagnosis of epilepsy: that’s about 1 in 100.  That’s more than 3,200 people in Leicester alone
  • 32,000 people are newly diagnose with the condition each year (88 a day)
  • there are approximately 1200 epilepsy related deaths a year
  • 60-70% will have their seizures controlled with medication.  Half will experience significant side effects from the drug regime
  • MRC funding from 2009/10 – 2013/14 approximately £8.6m (FOI request January 2015)
  • Epilepsy Research UK, the only national charity solely dedicated to raising funds for research into epilepsy
  • Work is entirely funded from voluntary donations.

*MRC and ERUK figures combined

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