The charity that is now Epilepsy Research UK has a distinguished history of funding scientific and clinical research to benefit people living with epilepsy and associated conditions from its earliest days.
The first charity dedicated to funding epilepsy research in the UK was set up by the British Epilepsy Association (a UK charity established in 1950) as a charitable trust in 1985, the British Epilepsy Research Foundation. The British Epilepsy Research Foundation (later the Epilepsy Research Foundation) aims were “ to promote, encourage and finance research into epilepsy and associate diseases and their underlying causes; to promote and improve the treatment, care and welfare of persons suffering from epilepsy and associated diseases; to advance the general education and understanding of the public concerning the nature and causes of epilepsy and associated diseases and the treatment thereof.”
By 1991, the total contribution of the Epilepsy Research Fund to epilepsy research in the UK was only around £80,000 per year, but this was roughly equivalent to the epilepsy research funded at that time by the UK Medical Research Council (Shorvon 1991). Indeed, in 1991, less than £1 per person with epilepsy was being spent, in total, on epilepsy research in the UK (this was approximately one-seventh that spent on diabetes research per person with the condition, and orders of magnitude smaller than that spent on multiple sclerosis or muscular dystrophy research per person with the conditions) (Shorvon 1991).
In 1992, in response to this underfunding, Kings College London set up the Institute of Epileptology under the leadership of Ted Reynolds (later to become president of the ILAE). A component of this was the fund for epilepsy to fund epilepsy research at Kings College London. In 2008, the Epilepsy Research Foundation and the Fund for Epilepsy were successfully merged as Epilepsy Research UK (ERUK), and we have gone from strength to strength.
Today, ERUK remains the only national UK charity exclusively dedicated to funding research into epilepsy. We now award £1.5 million per year as fellowships, PhD studentships and response-mode grants. This has enabled the growth of epilepsy research centres throughout the UK. We are currently funding over 40 projects, including clinical research seeking to advance the medical care and management of people living with epilepsy and lab-based scientific research investigating causes and methods for improving diagnosis, treatment and prevention of epilepsy. More recently, ERUK has played a key role in setting research agenda, through an internationally renowned Expert Workshop programme and dissemination activities that aim to forge local and global collaborations. We now also commission research to accelerate innovations that improve clinical practice and health policy through partnership working and advocating for further investment in research.
ERUK remains the only charity in the UK exclusively dedicated to driving and enabling research into this crucial area of research need. As members of the Association of Medical Research Charities (AMRC) from the very earliest years of the charity, ERUK’s grant-awarding processes meet the rigorous standards AMRC membership require ensuring it funds only the highest quality research.
ERUK has recently embarked on an ambitious programme of growth to drive and enable more research into epilepsy: from continuing to fund pioneering lab-based and clinical research; to capacity building the research environment and accelerating innovations in health practice.
To find out more about ERUK, you can check out our About Us page or contact us here.