Professor Ingrid Scheffer wins GlaxoSmithKline Award for Research Excellence

November 13 / 124

GlaxoSmithKline has awarded Professor Ingrid Scheffer from the University, the Florey Institute, Austin Health and the Royal Children's Hospital, the 2013 Award for Research Excellence (ARE) for helping to transform the diagnosis of epilepsy.

The award includes an $80,000 grant and has been awarded annually since 1980 in recognition of outstanding medical research.

GSK Medical Director Dr Andrew Yeates said Professor Scheffer’s clinical research has resulted in the identification of new epilepsy syndromes and has led directly to the discovery of new causative genes.

“This allows a better understanding of the course of the condition, a targeted approach to therapy, and where appropriate, enables other family members to have genetic testing to understand any implications for themselves,” said Dr Yeates.

The ARE is one of Australia’s oldest and most prestigious awards for medical research and one of the few that recognises clinical researchers.

“Clinical researchers have great insights – they draw on their clinical experience to frame research questions, collaborate with scientists to seek answers about diseases and then translate research findings into tangible results for their patients,” said Dr Yeates.

“In the case of Professor Scheffer, her collaborative work led directly to the identification of the first gene for epilepsy in 1995 and since, more than half of the 30 or so known genes.

“In particular, much of her work has focused on improving our understanding of some of the most  devastating and difficult to treat types of epilepsy -  the so called ‘epileptic encephalopathies ’- in which children have frequent debilitating seizures, often have intellectual impairment, have extremely poor quality of life and reduced life expectancy,” he said.

Professor Ingrid Scheffer  said making a difference to her patients and their families is the reason she is a clinical researcher.

“Being able to explain to a mother why her son has epilepsy and intellectual disability, after she has lived through 28 years of concern about what caused the illness is a key motivator for me,” she said.

Professor Scheffer and her colleagues have revolutionised the way the medical world diagnoses epilepsy. This seismic change has only occurred in the last 18 years since discovering the first epilepsy gene.

“Research has allowed us to find a cause. That is huge but it is only the beginning of the journey,” she said.

For more information about the award, visit www.gsk.com.au/research-development.aspx

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