Brain Institute Investigators Will Use Stimulus Grant to Develop Ways to Assess Epilepsy Drugs

Brain Institute Investigators Will Use Stimulus Grant to Develop Ways to Assess Epilepsy Drugs

Oct 1, 2009 1:29 PM

SALT LAKE CITY—Two University of Utah Brain Institute investigators have won a $923,787 Challenge Grant in federal economic stimulus money for research to develop new ways of assessing drugs for temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE), a devastating seizure disorder that is untreatable in some patients.

John A. White, Ph.D., professor of bioengineering and Brain Institute executive director, and Karen S. Wilcox, Ph.D., associate professor of pharmacology and toxicology in the College of Pharmacy and a Brain Institute member, received one of about 200 Challenge Grants funded through the stimulus package that was approved earlier this year. More than 20,000 researchers nationwide applied for the grants, which are intended advance 15 broad research areas, through an infusion of funds. White and Wilcox received a translational science grant for the early stage development of novel epilepsy therapies.  

For their project, White and Wilcox will use a groundbreaking imaging technique called targeted path scanning (TPS) to search for underlying mechanisms of temporal lobe epilepsy and to study how proposed drug therapies interact with networks of neurons and glial cells thought to be involved in the disease.

“The major goal of our proposed work is to develop new theories and approaches that could be invaluable in discovering new drug therapies for this devastating disorder,” White said. “We believe a likely outcome of our work will be entirely new ways to assess potential pharmacological therapies for epilepsy.”

An estimated 3 million Americans have epilepsy. Temporal lobe epilepsy is a common form of the disorder and often is treatable with anticonvulsant drugs. But in many intractable cases, drugs do not prevent seizures. White and Wilcox hope their study sheds light on new therapies that may help those cases of drug-resistant epilepsy.

The researchers will receive their grant in two annual installments of about $500,000 each. They also received an interdisciplinary research seed grant this year from the University’s Office of Vice President for Research to help fund the early stages of this work.

The Brain Institute is a coordinating center for neuroscience research and education at the University of Utah. With 140 faculty members from 35 academic departments, the Brain Institute is a bona fide interdisciplinary organization in which the whole is much more than the sum of its parts. The primary mission of the Brain Institute is to cultivate collaborations between neuroscientists, engineers, physicians and community partners to accelerate brain research, and to translate research findings into new treatments for individuals suffering from neurological diseases, neuropsychiatric disorders, and central nervous system injuries.

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Media Contacts

Jason Youngstrom
Communications Manager , University of Utah Brain Institute
Phone: (801) 587-1201

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