July 2016 – Prof. Jean-Marc Fritschy and Tilo Gschwind of the University of Zurich have been awarded this year’s Research Grant of CHF 25,000 by the Swiss League Against Epilepsy. With the help of innovative optogenetic techniques, the researchers are investigating the development of epilepsy and paving the way for new treatment methods.

(Zurich/Basel) This year’s Research Grant awarded by the Swiss League Against Epilepsy will be presented to Prof. Jean‐Marc Fritschy and Tilo Gschwind of the University of Zurich Institute for Pharmacology and Toxicology on 29 September in Basel. The grant is for a total of CHF 25,000 and by awarding it, the Epilepsy League is once again offering researchers working in Switzerland seed funding for the development of a larger research project.

The title of the award‐winning project is “Using closed-loop optogenetic intervention to investigate the mechanisms of epileptogenesis and its antiepileptogenic effects in a mouse model of temporal lobe epilepsy”. The project aims to better understand the development of epilepsy in a mouse model using a new method. Tilo Gschwind was able to learn the innovative optogenetics technique first hand at the laboratory of Prof. Ivan Soltesz (Stanford University, California). It involves genetically modifying specific cells so that their function can be turned on and off with light. “This method is a real revolution,” says Fritschy.

The goal of the project is to find out which of the many changes caused by a brain lesion are responsible for the development of epilepsy. At the same time, findings on closed‐loop stimulation could lead to improvements in the existing methods of deep brain stimulation for the prevention of epileptic seizures.

The Epilepsy League Prize for Best Dissertation, awarded every three years and totalling CHF 1,000, was awarded this year to Nicola Andrea Marchi from Lausanne. The title of his award-winning doctoral thesis is “Status epilepticus: impact of therapeutic coma on outcome”.