3 Mar 2021

Record investment in epilepsy research made from the Medical Research Future Fund

are stream leaders in the new epilepsy consortium
Fewer seizures, fewer deaths and better quality of life for people living with epilepsy are planned to become a reality through the Australian Epilepsy Project (AEP) which has received $30 million from the Australian Government’s Medical Research Future Fund, announced Friday 26 Feb.

The AEP will provide a national network of community epilepsy hubs which will provide access to world-leading testing to guide the diagnosis and treatment of epilepsy. The project has received the largest single government investment made to epilepsy research in Australia.

The AEP project team is a consortium of world-leading experts in neuroimaging, genetics and neuropsychology from the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health, the University of Melbourne, Austin Health, Monash University and Seer Medical.  It will be led by Professor Graeme Jackson, a world-leading neurologist and epilepsy researcher at the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health.

Two researchers from Monash University, Professor Patrick Kwan (Department of Neuroscience, Central Clinical School) and Associate Professor Zanfina Ademi (health services researcher in the School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine) are stream leaders in the AEP consortium.

Professor Terry O’Brien, CCS Head, said, "Well done to the whole AEP team on this really important MRFF Frontier's Grant. It is great news for the Australian epilepsy community. We are delighted to be part of this."

Prof Patrick Kwan is the Outcome Stream Lead. He said, "The AEP will allow us, for the first time, to demonstrate the impact of advanced diagnostic technologies on patient outcomes in the real-world setting."

A/Prof Zanfina Ademi, the Health Economics Lead, said, "The AEP will allow us to quantify the benefit of comprehensive advanced testing in people living with epilepsy. For the first time we will be able to determine the cost effectiveness of a new approach in epilepsy management as compared to current standard of care." 

“The AEP will transform the medical journey of Australians living with epilepsy, saving them from years of uncertainty, trial and error medication approaches, serious side-effects, and the constant disruption of countless appointments, tests, and referrals,” said Professor Jackson.

The AEP team includes epilepsy researchers and clinicians who use AI to integrate cutting-edge imaging, cognition and genetics data to guide clinical decisions including diagnosis and precision treatment options including medications or surgery. The impact of this can be profound.

The combination of advanced imaging, cognitive and genetic data, personalised treatments plans and if necessary, a skilled surgical team, means that people with epilepsy can now live an independent life, free from seizures. Professor Jackson says that this should be the new standard of clinical care.

“Until now, this type of care has been the gold standard but hasn’t been able to be routinely available outside of specialised research centres. The AEP brings this high level of care directly to Australians living with epilepsy by delivering these services through community hubs in three states within the next five years, and we aim to grow further,” said Professor Jackson.

“Australia is a world-leader in epilepsy research. This investment by the Medical Research Future Fund means that we can continue to learn more about this condition, while also providing all Australians living with epilepsy equal access to treatment options which provide them with the best chance at living a life free from seizures.”

See more about the AEP: epilepsyproject.org.au/

Facts about epilepsy:

  • Epilepsy is a neurological disorder characterised by seizures that are caused by a disruption of electrical activity in the brain
  • 2.5 million Australians will have a seizure at some point in their lives
  • Over 14,000 new cases of epilepsy were reported between 2019 – 2020
  • Epilepsy is commonly referred to as a “hidden disease” as seizures can overshadow the social, psychological and cognitive consequences that often come with the disorder and a lower quality of life
  • Epilepsy can be caused by injury to the brain, stroke, infection and genetic abnormalities but for around half of all cases of epilepsy the cause is unknown
  • Epilepsy is the second most burdensome neurological condition after dementia and costs the Australian economy $12.3billion per annum
  • People with epilepsy often experience depression, anxiety, suicide, migraine or stroke at significantly higher rates than that of the general population

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