Royal Holloway receives share of £9 million to research into a treatment for rare disease

News Editor |  Iffah Ahmed

A share of more than £9 million to start research into a treatment for Neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1) has been awarded to Royal Holloway, University of London and its partners at the University of Alabama. Neurofibromatosis is a rare disease that affects 1 in every 3,000 children born around the world.

World renowned Professor George Dickson and Linda Popplewell, Lecturer in Biomedical Sciences, from the School of Biological Sciences at Royal Holloway will be leading a team to look for a treatment for NF1 which is a genetic disorder that causes tumours to form on nerve tissue. The tumours have been identified as being usually non-cancerous (benign).

Thanks to the Gilbert Family Foundation, in America, the funding has been made possible. The Foundation was set up by Dan and Jennifer Gilbert, whose eldest son, Nick suffers from NF1. The Foundation’s primary goal is to accelerate the progression and development of curative therapies that address the underlying genetic abnormalities in NF1 patients.

NF1 is instigated by a faulty gene which creates uncontrolled tumours developing in the nervous system. In more than half the cases, it has been identified that the faulty gene is passed from a parent to their child.

Dr Linda Popplewell, commented on the research and grant by saying; “We are very excited to be able to research into curing Neurofibromatosis type 1 and to be working alongside the Gilbert Family Foundation and esteemed colleagues at the University of Alabama.

“The three-year grant will allow us to take a deeper look in to this rare disease to help the 10s of thousands of people who suffer from this across the world.”

Presenter, campaigner and UK actor Adam Pearson and his identical twin brother, Neil both have NF1 and Adam also commented on the research and grant; “As someone who is both effected by NF and considers the Gilbert Family as friends and fellow NF warriors, I could not be more excited about this grant.

It will go on to fund pioneering research into NF1, seeking to improve to lives of those effected by the condition, be it directly or through proximity.

I’m equally excited because, in the field of medical research, it is far too easy to boil things down to rudimentary numbers, medical jargon and desirable outcome – we depersonalise the process. This, however, feels different. This feels highly patient focused with a clear ideology, that whilst we are undoubtedly operating in the medical sphere, we all still hold humanity in highest regard.

It’s that humanity, that common characteristic, coupled with an unwavering passion and desire to end NF that makes these next three years an exciting journey to be a part of.”.

The Gilbert Family Foundation strongly believes that directly bypassing, replacing or repairing the NF1 gene mutation is important to find a cure for NF as Dan Gilbert stated, “We are committed to funding revolutionary and big-idea research. The teams we have partnered with share this vision, and our family is honoured to be working closely with this talented group of researchers and physicians.”



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