We are delighted to announce the recipients of our 2019 CURE grants! These grants are awarded for novel research projects that address finding cures for epilepsy and address the goal of “no seizures, no side-effects.” Read on to learn about the innovative projects our Taking Flight Award, CURE Epilepsy Award, and Post-Traumatic Epilepsy (PTE) Initiative grantees will pursue.
Taking Flight Award Grantee – $100,000 for one year
This award seeks to promote the careers of young epilepsy investigators, allowing them to develop a research focus independent of their mentors.
Bin Gu, PhD
Dr. Gu and his team will focus on identifying genes that increase how susceptible patients are to Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy (SUDEP) using a unique resource, genetically diverse mice. The team also plans to use genetic and electrophysiological techniques to understanding the physiological changes that can trigger SUDEP.
CURE Epilepsy Award Grantees – $250,000 for two years
This award reflects CURE’s continued focus on scientific advances that have potential to truly transform the lives of those affected by epilepsy.
Heather Mefford, MD, PhD
Dr. Mefford and her team will explore if a process called “abnormal methylation” is a cause of severe pediatric epilepsy syndromes known as developmental and epileptic encephalopathies (DEE). Abnormal methylation is a type of chemical DNA modification and occurs in many patients with DEE. While this process is a known cause for some neurological disorders, it hasn’t been studied much as a cause of epilepsy. In the future, the team will perform additional studies to understand why certain methylation changes can lead to epilepsy, developing clinical tests to diagnose affected individuals.
Nicholas Varvel, PhD
Dr. Varvel and his team will focus on status epilepticus (SE) – a neurological emergency in which a person has multiple seizures in a row without returning to consciousness. Previously, the team identified that a blood-borne immune cell called a monocyte invades the brain after seizures and contributes to damage and inflammation. Dr. Varvel and his team now plan to use a drug to block monocyte entry in mouse brains after SE. Ultimately, they want to determine if this approach is feasible in humans to relieve detrimental effects of seizures.
Christopher Reid, PhD
Dr. Reid and his team will work to identify key SUDEP risk factors by develop new rodent models which replicate having both epilepsy and a genetic heart abnormality. This research is based on evidence suggesting that a combination of epilepsy and changes in genes associated with heart conditions may increase SUDEP risk. The team will compare their models to understand if the rate of SUDEP is higher relative to existing models.
Post-Traumatic Epilepsy Initiative Grantee
This Initiative is a team science, multi-disciplinary program designed to expand knowledge around the types of injuries which predispose the brain to epilepsy and develop new models to study epilepsy resulting from injury.
Pavel Klein, MD
Dr. Klein and his team plan to address the current inability to predict who will go on to develop PTE following a traumatic brain injury by examining a group of high-risk patients with a greater chance of developing PTE. The team will search for biomarkers in patients’ EEG signatures, MRIs, or blood which can be used to predict who is at an increased risk of developing PTE. By finding ways to identify the individuals most at risk, the team hopes to pave the way for the development of therapies to prevent PTE. With the addition of Dr. Klein and his team, CURE’s Post-Traumatic Epilepsy Initiative now encompasses 6 investigative teams and over 40 researchers to tackle post-traumatic epilepsy.