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Paul Getty III funds King's epilepsy chair

SEPTEMBER 21, 2007

Professor Mark Richardson, the new Paul Getty III Professor of Epilepsy at King’s College London, thanked Paul Getty at a Reception on Friday 21st September, for his generous donation to fund a Chair and research at the Institute of Epileptology. The donation will enable Professor Richardson and his colleagues to develop a programme of multidisciplinary research and continue to build on the College’s world-leading reputation for innovative work in epilepsy treatment and research – a reputation developed over more than a century. 

The Institute of Epileptology at King’s College London, was established in 1994 with three aims in mind: to create a centre of excellence for epilepsy research in Europe, to develop teaching and training in epilepsy for medical and allied health professionals and to raise awareness of epilepsy, the world’s most common serious brain disorder.

Simultaneously with this, King’s College Hospital opened the Centre for Epilepsy, which is the largest clinical service of its kind in the UK, offering patients of all ages the widest range of investigations and treatment for epilepsy. King’s College Hospital is one of the largest hospitals in the country with a strong emphasis on research and a nationally important commitment to neurological diseases. 

Paul Getty III, after whom this Chair is named and members of his family, attended the special Reception at King’s College, hosted by the College’s Principal, Dr Rick Trainor, and Professor Peter McGuffin, Dean of the Institute of Psychiatry. In thanking Mr Getty before an audience of eminent academics, researchers and stakeholders working in the field of epilepsy, Professor Richardson said, “I am delighted and honoured to take up the Paul Getty III Chair of Epilepsy at King’s College London. This wonderful donation will allow us to build on our current successes, developing new areas of research and recruiting new staff. In particular, we are planning a new programme of patient-focussed research, examining how to optimise the way medical care is provided to people with epilepsy, to improve quality of life and reduce mortality.”

“A first key area of research is to better develop functional imaging studies which allow us to determine which parts of the brain are active when we perform various cognitive tasks – and so pinpoint the dysfunctional areas of the brain where seizures may arise. This crucially helps researchers and surgeons target more effective surgery for epilepsy.

“In a second area of research we are studying patients undergoing seizure recording using intracranial electrodes – part of clinical routine in our centre - to locate where seizures start. Uniquely in Europe, we have advanced this method to allow recording from individual brain cells. This provides a very important opportunity to understand how brain cells alter their activity before and during seizures. We can also study the way individual brain cells contribute to our thoughts and behaviour. This exciting opportunity is a good example of the way clinical studies of epilepsy may open a window on understanding the normal functions of the brain.

“In a third area of research, we are developing methods to ‘forecast’ when an epileptic seizure will occur. Currently, for most people with epilepsy, seizures appear to be random and unpredictable in occurrence. Several electrophysiological techniques can predict, to a certain extent, when seizures might occur. Using a variety of techniques we can understand more about the reasons seizures start and their apparently random onset and how to prevent a seizure from starting. 

“Our ultimate vision is to link-in methods to predict seizures with treatments delivered to the brain only at the time when there is a risk a seizure might start. This would be a completely new way of treating epilepsy – focus treatment to the time when the person is at risk of having seizures – so ensuring a better quality of life and more control for people with epilepsy who are constantly on their guard for a seizure onset.” 

Jane Sykes, former Secretary of The Fund for Epilepsy, which helped to establish the Institute of Epileptology, and who continues to support the Institute through the Charles Sykes Epilepsy Research Trust commented “I am thrilled at this magnificent donation by Paul Getty to establish such a prestigious Chair, which is a milestone in the progress of the Institute of Epileptology of King’s College. People with epilepsy in the UK and everywhere will be enormously appreciative of Mr Getty’s initiative which will raise awareness and give hope to millions of sufferers through much needed new research into the causes and cures of epilepsy”.

Leigh Slocombe, Executive Director of Epilepsy Research UK added: “The establishment of the Paul Getty III Chair in Epileptology is great news for epilepsy research. Professor Richardson will be leading a first class team at King’s whose work will benefit everyone with epilepsy.”

Jane Hanna, Director of the charity Epilepsy Bereaved commented:

“With 3 seizure-deaths a day in the UK it is vital that epilepsy gets its fair share of research funding. This generous funding by Mr Paul Getty of a Chair in Epilepsy at Kings is warmly welcomed by bereaved families as a significant step for a brighter future for people with epilepsy and their families.”
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