Announcing the Spring 2014 Awardees

$450,000 total awarded to six projects including:

  • One Epilepsy Innovation Seal of Excellence Award
  • Three New Therapy Commericalization Grants
  • One Targeted Research Initiative for Morbidity and Mortality Grant
  • One Targeted Research Initiative for Veterans with Non-Epileptic Seizures Grant

Epilepsy News From: Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Epilepsy Foundation is pleased to announce our Spring 2014 awardees. These projects, which recieved a total of $450,000, represent some of the most promising research projects and new therapies aimed at improving the lives of people living with epilepsy and seizures.

The projects awarded include new medications and treatments, new diagnostic equipment, and research that aims to find neurological causes of sudden unexpected death in epilepsy (SUDEP) and psychogenic non-epileptic seizures (PNES). The grants are given after intense scrutiny by the Scientific and Business Advisory Boards of the Epilepsy Foundation.

Epilepsy Innovation Seal of Excellence Award

Epilepsy Innovation Seal of Excellence awards are designed to accelerate the advancement of research from the laboratory to the patient. SEALs are provided to academic and commercial groups worldwide. The program provides an actual SEAL that may be used by the awardee to generate interest in the project and a one-time $25,000 grant for the research. Applicants will typically have a research budget that currently exceeds the resources of the Epilepsy Foundation. The Epilepsy Foundation will assist awardees in finding funds for the selected projects.

Epalex Inhaler

Epalex Corporation
Michael Rogawski MD, PhD

For the the creation of the exciting new anti-seizure agent, propofol hemisuccinate (PHS), and the development of the Epalex inhaler system, a pocket-sized inhaler to be used by a person with epilepsy to prevent the occurrence of a potentially serious seizure. When a seizure warning sign (aura) occurs, the inhaler is used to self-administer a powerful anti-seizure drug into the lungs, which is rapidly absorbed into the blood stream and carried to the brain, stopping the seizure.

New Therapy Commercialization Grants

The Epilepsy Foundation - New Therapy Commercialization Grants Program focuses strictly on the field of translational epilepsy research and provides resources to accelerate the progress of breakthrough research and new therapies from the laboratory to the patient.

Prodrug/Enzyme Systems for Intranasal Treatment of Seizure Emergencies

University of Minnesota, College of Pharmacy
James Cloyd PharmD

Seizure emergencies can result in injury, increased medical costs and, if left untreated, can progress to status epilepticus. The only approved out-of-hospital treatment for seizure emergencies is rectal diazepam, but many patients and caregivers object to this route. We propose to develop water-based intranasal benzodiazepines that are easily administered and safely deliver high drug concentrations that rapidly terminate seizures.

Focused Ultrasound for Subcortical Epilepsy (FUSE) Study

University of Virginia
Nathan B. Fountain MD

This clinical trial will use sound waves (focused ultrasound) to selectively destroy a small area of abnormal brain cells deep in the brain, such as hypothalamic hamartomas, that cause seizures. The sound waves are focused by a new technology and directed to the correct location by live ongoing magnetic resonance imaging.

Dry Sensor-based Neonatal EEG Monitoring (NEMO)

Children's National Medical Center
Tammy Tsuchida MD, PhD

The principle goal of this proposal is to design, build and test an initial Neonatal EEG Monitor ("NEMO") prototype headset that can be subsequently developed into a product ready for FDA 510(d) premarket approval as the first medical-grade neonatal dry sensor system. This easy-to-use headset will fit a range of head shapes, enable EEG recording within 10 minutes, not injure delicate neonatal skin and can be used with any conventional EEG recording system, thereby increasing availability of monitoring.

Targeted Research Initiative for Morbidity and Mortality

The broad focus of the morbidity portion of this program includes: identification of somatic comorbidities in epilepsy that occur more than expected among controls, including but not limited to diabetes, gastrointestinal bleeding, chronic lung disease, congenital cardiac abnormalities, heart failure, and pneumonia; and associations between somatic comorbidities in epilepsy and epilepsy outcomes, including quality of life in epilepsy, seizure remission, stigma and other outcomes. The mortality portion of the program is focused upon potentially preventable causes of death in epilepsy, such as accidents, suicide and sudden unexpected death in epilepsy (SUDEP). 

Brainstem Atrophy: A SUDEP biomarker

The Regents of the University of California, San Francisco
Susanne Mueller MD

The goal of this project is to demonstrate that patients with difficult to control temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE) have atrophy in brainstem regions involved in cardio respiratory control and seizure inhibition using MR imaging. Consequently these patients have more severe seizures that are more often associated with respiratory and cardiac disturbances severe enough to cause hypoxia. The repetitive hypoxia leads to more brainstem damage and further aggravation of the cardiac and respiratory disturbances until they reach a critical point after which cardio respiratory control becomes unstable during heightened demand and results in a heightened SUDEP risk.

This hypothesis will be investigated by demonstrating brainstem damage in 10 TLE patients and correlating its extent with that of the cardiac/respiratory dysfunction (reduced heart rate variability) between seizures. In addition, the MRI of 5 patients who died of SUDEP will be investigated in the same way with the aim to demonstrate that they had more severe brainstem atrophy in the same regions. If successful, this project could lead to a biomarker to identify patients at risk for SUDEP and thus in need of rigorous seizure control and increased surveillance during seizures.

Targeted Research Initiative for Veterans with Non-Epileptic Seizures

This program recognizes the increasing need for research pertaining to the psychosocial needs of veterans with non-epileptic seizures (NES). The Epilepsy Foundation supports fundamental, translational and clinical research pertaining to the psychosocial needs of veterans with NES with regards to either: diagnosis (identification), therapy, health care utilization, and/or outcomes.

PTSD Severity and Imaging Biomarkers in Veterans with PNES: A Pilot

Brigham and Women's Hospital, Inc.
Emily Stern MD

This proposal aims to define functional and structural brain relationships in veterans with Psychogenic Non-Epileptic Seizures (PNES) as a function of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) severity. The association between PNES and PTSD in veterans has been reported but there have been no neuroimaging investigations of this relationship. This study will use a well-validated, emotional-linguistic go/no-go functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) paradigm, structural MRI analyses, and psychometric testing measures of PTSD severity and resilience. Members of our group have successfully applied similar neuroimaging strategies to study civilians with PTSD and other neuropsychiatric disorders.

The pilot data from this study will result in a greater understanding of brain dysfunction and structural abnormalities in veterans with PNES, which may subsequently guide identification of biomarkers for prognosis and treatment. This research will create a new multidisciplinary collaboration between VA Boston Healthcare System, Brigham and Women's Hospital and the Epilepsy Foundation. Pilot data from this study will also form the basis of future research in this area and catalyze additional collaborations between these institutions.

Reviewed Date

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

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