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NIH initiates Centers Without Walls, awards $5.9M in funding

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Nine groups of scientists will receive funding totaling $5.9 million in 2014 to work together on increasing the understanding of sudden unexpected death in epilepsy (SUDEP), the leading cause of death from epilepsy. The consortium becomes the second Center Without Walls, an initiative to speed the pace of research on difficult problems in epilepsy by promoting collaborative research. The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), part of the NIH, funds this initiative.

“We hope that by encouraging scientists with expertise in a variety of areas to join forces in the Centers Without Walls initiative for SUDEP research, we may learn how to prevent the tragic death of as many as 3000 children and adults each year in the U.S.,” said Walter Koroshetz, M.D., acting director of NINDS.

NINDS established the Centers Without Walls program in 2010 to address challenges and gaps in epilepsy research. The program encourages collaborations, including sharing of data and resources, between researchers from a variety of disciplines and institutions.

Seizures affect almost one in 20 people. Each year, SUDEP occurs in one out of 1,000 people with epilepsy, often in people between 20 to 40 years old. SUDEP refers to deaths with no known causes in individuals with epilepsy; there are no strategies for preventing it.

The grants form the Center for SUDEP Research, which is made up of related projects with the common goal of quickly taking SUDEP lab results into the clinic.

“These projects represent a wide range of strategies for figuring out what causes SUDEP and identifying risk factors that may help prevent it. The design of the program, which combines fundamental laboratory research with translational and clinical findings, will provide us with answers to many of the questions we have about SUDEP,” said Vicky Whittemore, Ph.D., NINDS program director who will be part of the leadership of the Center.

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