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Nose-to-brain drug delivery for epilepsy patients

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Otago pharmacist to develop nose-to-brain drug delivery for epilepsy patients

University of Otago pharmacist Dr Shakila Rizwan has secured more than $137,000 in funding to develop a promising new technique to treat drug-resistant epilepsy involving administering drugs to the brain via the nose.

Health Research Council of New Zealand (HRC) Chief Executive Dr Kathryn McPherson says Dr Rizwan is one of nine up-in-coming researchers to receive an Emerging Researcher First Grant in the HRC’s 2015 funding round. After a vigorous independent peer review process, eight of the nine researchers funded through this grant come from the University of Otago.

“Our emerging researcher grants, which this year total more than $1.3 million, support the career development of some of our best and brightest health researchers. These young people are outstanding in their respective research fields, and with these grants they will be able to conduct research that will benefit the health of all New Zealanders.”

Epilepsy is a common brain disorder, with up to 40 per cent of sufferers failing to achieve good seizure control. This is because conventional oral therapy falls short in getting high enough levels of anti-epileptic drugs to the region of the brain from which the seizures start.

“Treatment for patients with drug-resistant epilepsy is currently limited to surgical removal of the seizure-generating area in the brain. This is an invasive procedure that is only suitable for up to 10 per cent of patients and has a high risk of functional impairment,” says Dr Rizwan.

Dr Rizwan plans to increase the concentration of anti-epileptic drugs in the brain by packing them in small biological carriers and administering them via the nose. She says this is because the nasal cavity is a site for direct absorption of drugs into the brain; administration through the nose is also safe and convenient for the patient.

“If successful, our technology will offer patients in New Zealand and internationally a non-invasive and cost-effective option for more seizure-free intervals.”


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