The Epilepsy Project Announces First Recipients of Translational Research Grants

Grants Awarded to Advance New Therapies and Insights into Drug Development

Reston, VA

The Epilepsy Project, a non-profit organization dedicated to advancing new therapies for epilepsy, today announced the three inaugural recipients of its translational research grants. Grant recipients were chosen based on the quality, mission, and practical application of the proposed research, as well as on evidence of a clear translational pathway to patients with epilepsy. Separately, the Epilepsy Project is also announcing today its joint venture with the Epilepsy Foundation to form The Epilepsy Research Foundation, a national non-profit organization responsible for introducing and overseeing the first “New Therapy Grants Program”.

“More than a third of the 2.5 million epilepsy patients in the United States experience persistent seizures while using existing therapies, and most patients with epilepsy must tolerate serious side effects while on therapies,” said Orrin Devinsky, M.D., Professor of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry, and Director, NYU Comprehensive Epilepsy Center, New York University, and member of The Epilepsy Project grant review committee. “The need to innovate new chemical entities, diagnostics and other treatment modalities for more effective care of epilepsy patients has never been more clear. The Epilepsy Project’s translational research grant program provides philanthropic support to bring new and better products to patients quickly.”

The first grant recipients represent innovation in novel therapeutics, as well as pioneering insights into epilepsy drug discovery by pursuing advanced medical devices, new medicines, and a predictive preclinical model for drug discovery and development. More than $300,000 was awarded.

The first recipient, Steven Schachter, MD, Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School and Associate Director, Clinical Research at Harvard Medical School Osher Institute was awarded a grant to examine the use of Asian herbs as a possible source of new chemical entities for the treatment of epilepsy. This research leverages an existing National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded international collaboration in herbal research centered at Harvard Medical School, the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) Anticonvulsant Screening Program, and two high-throughput screening (HTS) laboratories at Harvard Medical School. The program also includes investigators at universities throughout Asia where a large number of herbs have been used to treat convulsive diseases. The study aims to evaluate promising herbal epilepsy medicines in highly validated animal models of epilepsy, and to identify, characterize, and profile the fractions and compounds with anti-seizure properties, and prioritize those herbs for future clinical studies.

The second recipient, Naresh Bhavaraju, PhD, Research and Development Engineer at Flint Hills Scientific (FHS), was awarded a grant towards the development of low-power, implantable seizure detection and treatment device that will allow prolonged operation without the need for frequent battery recharging or replacement. The grant supports the development of an analog circuit implementation of FHS’ seizure detection algorithm that reduces power consumption, prolonging battery life.

The third recipient, Raimondo D’Ambrosio, PhD, Research Assistant Professor of Neurological Surgery, at the University of Washington School of Medicine, was awarded a grant to establish baseline data on a new animal model of epileptogenesis and pharmacoresistant epilepsy. This project is designed to evaluate a rodent model with posttraumatic epilepsy via closed head injury-induced seizures, for drug screening. This model is closely related to human cases of closed head injury. Its novel design was developed in response to increasing concern that traditional epilepsy models, which rely on electrical stimulation or administration of neurotoxins, may be clinically irrelevant and ineffective at identifying significant epileptogenic mechanisms and antiepileptic therapeutics. The project will focus on the probability of developing epilepsy due to the degree and location of injury, the neurologic focus of epilepsy following injury over time, and the pharmacological responsiveness at different durations of time following injury. “The Epilepsy Project’s research grants are unique in that they specifically focus on projects demonstrating a clear path from research in the laboratory to helping those suffering the devastating effects of the disease,” said May Liang, Executive Director of The Epilepsy Project. “With an objective of condensing the time it takes to develop and commercialize new therapies, we chose the current grant recipients based on the breakthrough nature of each proposal and the potential to advance new treatments based on a solid scientific and research foundation. We are very pleased to support these cutting-edge research projects.”

The grant applications were reviewed and selected by a distinguished group of neurologists and epileptologists including Orrin Devinsky, MD; Jacqueline French, MD, Professor of Neurology, and Co-Director of the Pennsylvania Epilepsy Center, University of Pennsylvania; Ray Dingledine, Chair of the Department of Pharmacology, Emory University; Robert Fisher, MD, Professor of Neurology and Director, Stanford Comprehensive Epilepsy Center, Stanford University; Robert Messing, MD, Professor of Neurology and Associate Director, Gallo Center University of California, San Francisco; and Steven Schachter, MD.

Call for Grant Applications Scheduled October 1, 2004
The Epilepsy Project will next be awarding grants, as part of the New Therapy Grants Program and will announce the first recipients at the annual meeting of the American Epilepsy Society, December 3 to 8, 2004 in New Orleans. The due date for proposals is October 1, 2004, and qualified applicants and institutions are encouraged to apply. More information on the grant application process can be found at www.epilepsy.com/epilepsy/grants and www.epilepsyfoundation.org/research/erf.cfm.

About The Epilepsy Project
The Epilepsy Project is a non-profit organization whose mission is to advance new therapies for people living with epilepsy. Founded in 2002 by a group of parents, distinguished physicians and researchers, The Epilepsy Project supports the research and development of more effective therapies and serves as a catalyst for moving new therapies from the lab to the patient. The organization funds translational research through direct grants. Since its founding, The Epilepsy Project has raised over five million dollars towards its mission. For further information on The Epilepsy Project, or to contribute, please visit www.epilepsy.com/epilepsy_therapy_project.

Our Mission

The mission of the Epilepsy Foundation is to lead the fight to overcome the challenges of living with epilepsy and to accelerate therapies to stop seizures, find cures, and save lives.

 
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