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2020 project grant awards

Clockwise from top left: Khuloud Al-Jamal, Manav Pathania, Megan Crawford, Ryan Mathew

As we come to the end of a challenging year, we are delighted to share details of the four new research projects we have funded in 2020.

Each of the four projects has been selected on the basis that it will make an important contribution to knowledge in one of our key priority areas and, crucially, that the applicants have demonstrated how this knowledge will translate to real benefit for patients.

How we fund research

Our remit is wide, covering hundreds of neurological conditions. In order to maximise our impact, we are currently focusing our research funding on three priority areas: brain tumours, brain and spinal cord injury, and headache and facial pain. These are areas where we have identified a large unmet need amongst patients, and a lack of current research investment.

We particularly encourage applications from early career researchers - which we define as those with up to 10 years' post-doctoral research experience. We had a particularly strong response from early career researchers this year, such that three of the four grants went to those in this category.

Our funding opportunities are openly advertised via competitive, national calls for applications. We have a two-stage assessment process that involves initial review and short-listing by the members of our Scientific Advisory Panel, followed by external peer review. The Panel then makes recommendations to our Board of Trustees - those projects that stand out for their scientific excellence, and their potential to transform knowledge.

We are pleased to have been able to award funding for the following four outstanding projects.

A new combination therapy for glioblastoma

Professor Khuloud Al-Jamal and colleagues at King’s College London are designing a new treatment for the deadly brain tumour glioblastoma. They are combining chemotherapy and immunotherapy techniques, and will deliver this treatment directly to the tumour using a new delivery method to cross the blood-brain barrier. If successful, this will lead to more effective treatment and with less side effects than currently available treatments, and the team will be poised to take this through to clinical trial.

Read more: Professor Khuloud Al-Jamal

Understanding the margin zone in brain cancer

Neurosurgeon Mr Ryan Mathew, of the University of Leeds, brings together a collaborative team from across three universities to tackle the problematic cancer cells that remain in the so-called ‘margin zone’ following brain tumour surgery. These cells are the root of relapse, and being able to eliminate them therefore holds the key to treatment that is successful in the long-term. The team is developing new tools to enable the study of these cells in a living system, and work on better ways to eliminate them.

Read more: Mr Ryan Mathew

Towards precision therapy for diffuse midline gliomas

Dr Manav Pathania, of the University of Cambridge, is studying the incurable childhood brain tumour, diffuse midline glioma (DMG) (previously known as diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma, DIPG). His team is studying the genetic mutations most commonly found in these tumours to determine their roles in tumour growth, and their potential as targets for treatment. The ultimate goal is the development of a ‘precision’ patient-matched approach to treating DMG that will effectively eradicate the tumour, without causing unnecessary damage to young, developing brains.

Read more: Dr Manav Pathania

Improving sleep in patients with chronic migraine

Dr Megan Crawford is a sleep researcher at the University of Strathclyde. She is trying to break the vicious cycle of migraines and insomnia, whereby migraines cause sleeping problems, which then trigger further migraines. She is evaluating a digital form of cognitive behaviour therapy to see whether it can improve sleep in people with migraine, and break this debilitating cycle.

Read more: Dr Megan Crawford

Amazing supporters

The money to fund these new projects – a total of £1.1 million – has been raised by our amazing supporters. Without their extraordinary efforts, we simply would not be able to fund this vital research. Many have very personal reasons for fundraising. Jane turned her gift-making hobby into a business to help raise funds for neurological research after her son James was diagnosed with a brain tumour. In February this year (when such things were still possible), Roger completed the 777 challenge – 7 marathons on 7 continents in 7 days – raising money for brain research, having lost several family members to brain conditions.

If you're looking for fundraising inspiration, or have an idea of your own, get in touch!

Looking for project grant funding?

If you are a researcher working in one of our priority areas, the next deadline for project grant applications is 1st March 2021. Find out more.