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UCB signs new epilepsy research pact with Imperial

Published on 21/05/12 at 02:07pm
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UCB has signed a two-year research deal with Imperial College London to find disease-modifying targets in epilepsy.

The firm has also announced its support of the Quarriers Scottish Epilepsy Centre (SEC), a charity dedicated to helping those affected by epilepsy. 

The two-year research collaboration with Imperial College London will see the organisations combine resources and expertise to identify master genetic regulators of brain networks underlying epileptic activity.

The hope is that this could lead to the discovery of novel drug targets.

This is the first time that cutting edge technologies – including RNA sequencing and genome-wide approaches - will be applied in translational epilepsy research, the firm says.

Dr Michael Johnson, consultant and honorary reader in neurology at Imperial College London, and his colleague Dr Enrico Petretto, senior lecturer in genomic medicine at Imperial, said: “Up to 30% of people with epilepsy do not respond to currently available treatments and still have uncontrolled seizures, and this situation has remained largely unchanged despite several new drugs in the past 20 years.

“Therefore, a new approach to drug development in epilepsy is required. The aim of our partnership with UCB is to use state of the art genomic approaches to identify causal molecular pathways for epilepsy and ultimately identify and validate new drug targets to modify these pathways.”

This collaboration follows the recently announced partnership with Oxford University in March.

The Oxford-UCB partnership, funded by a contribution of £3.6 million from UCB, will run over three years and focuses on immunology and neurology. 

UCB said that both the Imperial College London and Oxford partnerships “demonstrates UCBs commitment to research and development in the UK”.

The firm’s core products focus on disorders of the central nervous system, and it currently markets Vimpat and Keppra for certain forms of epilepsy.

Scottish Epilepsy Centre

UCB is also supporting Quarriers in Scotland, a dedicated epilepsy assessment centre in Scotland.

But the current centre has come to the end of its working life and work has now begun on building the new centre.

When it opens in spring 2013, the SEC will be one of the most advanced epilepsy centres in the world.

The new facility in Govan will be designated a ‘centre of excellence’, enabling the charity to be at the forefront of assessment and diagnosis.

The majority of Scotland’s trainee neurologists will be offered placements at the centre, which will also deliver training for GPs and nurses and conduct research into the epilepsy.

Quarriers chief executive Paul Moore, said: “UCB’s support for the new SEC means Quarriers will be able to support more people each year living with one of the most common neurological conditions in the UK.”

Today’s news comes at the start of National Epilepsy Week, which is looking to highlight the disease to the public.

Ben Adams 

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