7th August 2018: FutureNeuro, the SFI Research Centre for Chronic and Rare Neurological diseases based at RCSI, Dublin, has announced a new collaboration with the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson to jointly pursue research to reduce neuroinflammation in regions of the brain associated with triggering seizures. Of the 60 million people affected by epilepsy in the world, a third of patients continue to have active, uncontrolled seizures, and there remains a significant unmet need for novel treatments for drug-resistant epilepsy.

Recent studies have uncovered the specific signals that start the process, which involve the P2X7 receptor, on the surface of certain brain cells. By blocking this pathway, both neuroinflammation and seizures may be reduced. Neuroinflammation is also believed to block the effectiveness of drugs used to treat epilepsy. Neuroinflammation is understood to contribute to the development of various brain-related diseases. Beyond epilepsy, this research has potential applications for neuropsychiatric and neurodegenerative diseases, including mood disorders and Alzheimer’s disease.

Speaking about the partnership, Prof. David Henshall, FutureNeuro Centre Director said, “This project is strongly aligned with the Centre’s strategic goal to conduct research into the basic mechanisms of neuroinflammation and its relevance to epilepsy. Collaborating with one of the world’s most innovative pharmaceutical companies that has a significant footprint in Ireland, provides the FutureNeuro Centre with a critical strategic partner for future growth and research.”

A dedicated team of neuroscientists at the FutureNeuro SFI Research Centre in RCSI will collaborate on the two-year research project with Janssen R&D teams in Belgium and the USA.

Dr Ciarán Seoighe, Deputy Director General of Science Foundation Ireland, welcomed the announcement, saying: “I am delighted to see this partnership between Janssen and the FutureNeuro SFI Research Centre come to fruition. By growing and expanding international links through collaborations with world-leading organisations we can create further opportunities for innovation, and continue to build on Ireland’s international reputation for research excellence. Fostering strong international relationships is an important objective for Science Foundation Ireland and its Research Centre network, to ensure we are producing cutting-edge research and maximising our opportunities to address global research challenges and positively impact people’s lives.”

Epilepsy is the third leading contributor to the global burden of disease for neurological disorders. When not effectively managed, the condition can lead to mood and psychiatric disorders, cognitive deficits and potential brain damage. More effective treatments for epilepsy would potentially have transformative effects on the quality of life and health outcomes of people who currently are unresponsive to available treatments.

Prof. Norman Delanty, Consultant Neurologist at Beaumont Hospital and Collaborator at FutureNeuro SFI Research Centre also welcomed the research stating, "These are exactly the kind of exciting clinical translational partnerships than can help us understand the biology of drug-resistant epilepsy and, by FutureNeuro scientists and clinicians working closely together, may have potential to develop new treatment molecules for human epilepsy too".

FutureNeuro, funded by Science Foundation Ireland, aims to deliver advances in understanding disease initiation and progress. With this understanding, and through industry partnerships, new technologies and solutions for the treatment, diagnosis and monitoring of chronic and rare neurological diseases will be developed.