A new partnership between FutureNeuro, the SFI Research Centre for Chronic and Rare Neurological diseases based at RCSI and GreenLight Medicines, an indigenous Irish biopharmaceutical company has been formed to develop new cannabis-based treatments for drug-resistant epilepsies, and in particular, childhood epilepsies.
The research will explore how cannabidiol (CBD) and other non-psychoactive molecules from the cannabis plant can reduce seizures. It will also look at optimizing the effectiveness of this new approach to treat epilepsy.
"This project has strong alignment with FutureNeuro's strategic goal to bring novel treatments to patients in Ireland with difficult to control epilepsy" said Professor David Henshall, academic supervisor on the project and FutureNeuro Director.
An estimated 10,000 people in Ireland are resistant to current treatments for epilepsy, which is one of the most common neurological diseases. This means that many people with epilepsy are having numerous, uncontrolled seizures every day. Uncontrolled seizures can also result in other devastating effects, including a reduction in cognitive abilities.
Dr. Colin Doherty, National Clinical Lead for Epilepsy and a Principal Investigator at the FutureNeuro Centre said, "The use of cannabis to treat epilepsy offers a tantalizing new horizon for severe disabling seizures. The mechanism by which CBD exerts its antiepileptic effects is currently unknown, and this impactful research will help to provide clinical evidence of its long-term efficacy, as well as data on any long-term side effects."
Emerging experimental and human evidence suggests that CBD and possibly other components of cannabis plant extracts reduce seizures in patients with rare genetic epilepsies and may have potential as a treatment for refractory epilepsy.
Dr. James Linden, CEO of GreenLight Medicines said "We are delighted to work with FutureNeuro to investigate if Greenlight compounds have potential as treatments for drug-resistant epilepsy. It is a great opportunity to make a difference to the lives of thousands of epilepsy patients across the globe".
The partnership will create a large research framework connecting internationally-recognized neuroscientists, research infrastructure and pre-clinical models and will enable identification and interaction with clinicians who can assist with translation to the clinic.
Director of Programmes and Investments at Science Foundation Ireland Dr. Darrin Morrissey said "FutureNeuro brings together an exceptional team of scientists, clinicians and other experts to address the urgent needs of patients with chronic and rare neurological diseases such as epilepsy and motor neurone disease. In a globally unique way, the Centre will undertake cutting-edge research on diagnosis and treatment of neurological disorders that leverages the emerging electronic healthcare infrastructure in Ireland. With industry partners and hospital networks, the Centre aims to translate research into effective diagnostic supports, treatments and monitoring systems to benefit the lives of patients living with these debilitating and often devastating conditions".
FutureNeuro, which is funded by Science Foundation Ireland and based at RCSI, aims to deliver new technologies and solutions for the treatments, diagnosis and monitoring of chronic and rare neurological diseases.