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EU Provides $15.4M for International Study of MiRNA in Epilepsy

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The European Union has provided €11.5 million ($15.4 million) to fund an international research consortium that will seek to investigate the roles microRNAs play in epilepsy and how they may be used to develop new diagnostics and treatments for the disease.

The EpimiRNA Consortium includes 16 partners from eight countries in Europe, as well as the US and Brazil, and includes academic and business partners.

The consortium will include scientists with backgrounds in epilepsy genetics, miRNA-target detection, proteomics, and systems biology, and businesses that are working on miRNA therapeutics and treatments for pharmacoresistant epilepsy.

The EpimiRNA project partners plan to uncover the molecular mechanisms involved in epileptogenesis, the process by which a normal brain changes into one capable of generating epileptic seizures. There is a growing consensus, the consortium said, that the lack of good therapies for epilepsy is due to a failure to understand the complex basis of epileptogenesis.

To tackle this problem, the partners will characterize genetic variation of miRNA in patients, evaluate the seizure-suppressing effects of miRNAs in experimental models, identify novel miRNA modulatory molecules that could be used as treatments, and develop miRNAs as prognostic markers to identify patients who respond to treatments, including brain stimulation.

"We will now take the first ever large-scale international effort to uncover the complete spectrum of effects of microRNA in epilepsy, from designing drugs of the future to genetic tests and diagnostics," Professor David Henshall, of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland and coordinator of the consortium, said in a statement.

The commercial partners supporting the project include DIXI Microtechniques (France); Cerbomed GmbH (Germany); InteRNA Technologies (Netherlands); Bicoll GmbH (Germany-China); BC Platforms (Finland); and GABO:mi (Germany).

Among the academic partners in the consortium are Philipps University Marburg in Germany, University Medical Center Utrecht in the Netherlands, University of Verona in Italy, Aarhus University in Denmark, and Duke University in the US.

The five-year project is funded by the EU under its Seventh Framework Programme.