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Barr Ellison Solicitors – commercial property
15 January, 2020 - 20:55 By Kate Sweeney

Babraham ace wins EU funding for brain injury research

Pioneering research by Professor Adrian Liston, a senior group leader at the Babraham Institute in Cambridge, will be developed towards being market-ready for the treatment of brain injury through funding provided by a European Research Council proof of concept grant.

Research undertaken by Professor Liston and his group has shown that driving the expansion of a specific population of immune cells in the brain is effective at treating brain injury in mouse pre-clinical models. 

The research shows that this approach is effective at treating brain damage caused by disease, such as occurs in mouse models of multiple sclerosis, or injury, such as occurs following a head trauma or stroke.

The research grant from the European Union will support the development of this approach over an 18 month period. The funding will allow for the validation of the treatment in pre-clinical trials and the recruitment of a commercial partner for entry into clinical trials in patients.

Professor Liston, a senior group leader in the Institute’s Immunology programme, said: “This is an exciting new approach to preventing neurodegenerative diseases. 

“By working with a multi-disciplinary and international team, spanning both immunology and neuroscience, we have been able to come up with a completely new approach to preventing, and potentially reversing, brain damage. 

“The recent success of translating new immune-based therapeutics from mice to humans in immunological diseases and cancer demonstrates the high potential of using this new method to fight neurodegenerative disease.”

The approach harnesses the power of a type of immune cell called regulatory T cells – cells that control the immune response, suppressing the immune system from over-reacting. Increasing the number of these cells in the brain prevents and reverses the inflammatory damage that occurs to the brain during diseases, such as in mouse models of multiple sclerosis, and with traumatic brain injury or stroke. 

The proof-of-concept research demonstrated that just one treatment was sufficient to prevent brain degeneration and stimulate brain repair (see image).

Professor Michael Wakelam, Institute director, said: “It’s fantastic that the ERC have recognised the potential of this promising research. 

“Neurodegenerative diseases increase in likelihood and severity with age, so this research very closely aligns with our mission to improve lifelong health. We’re hugely excited to take the next steps towards developing this approach and exploring the wider instances where this type of treatment may offer benefits.”

ERC Proof of Concept grants award €150,000 (£128,000) to researchers to explore the innovation potential of their scientific discoveries and bring the results of their frontier research closer to market. 

The award to Professor Liston will allow him to develop the research discovered through the TissueTregs project which has been supported by an ERC Consolidator grant funding research at the VIB (Belgium) and the Babraham Institute.

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