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Lily announces a further £250,000 of funding for new research into mitochondrial disease


20 March 2019

The Lily Foundation has awarded research grants totalling £250,000 to three new scientific studies that aim to improve the lives of people with mitochondrial disease.

A microscope lens pointing down at a slide

Support for the UK-based projects was announced as the charity revealed the results of its annual funding call, which awards research grants to the most promising new studies in the field of mitochondrial medicine.

The successful applicants include teams of doctors, scientists and researchers at some of the country’s top centres for mitochondrial disease research, including the University of Cambridge and University College London. The projects include:

  • a study to test new treatments on zebrafish models of mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome (MDDS), by researchers at University of Cambridge
  • development of assessment guidelines to improve the diagnosis and management of balance disturbances in mitochondrial disease, by researchers at University College London
  • a study into genome editing to treat mitochondrial DNA diseases of the muscles and brain, by researchers at University of Cambridge.

The funding brings the total amount The Lily Foundation has invested into mitochondrial disease research to more than £2m to date. Liz Curtis, the charity's co-founder and CEO, commented: "The UK is a world leader in mitochondrial disease research, and this year, as in previous years, we have been really impressed by the level of quality in the proposals we received. Continuing to fund new research is our best hope of finding effective treatments and therapies for mitochondrial disease, and is in line with our long-term goal of finding a cure. It also gives much-needed hope to people affected by mitochondrial disease, who currently have to cope with the devastating impact of this illness every day of their lives."

Professor Rita Horvath, a Principal Investigator on the University of Cambridge study into new treatments for MDDS using zebrafish models , said in response to receiving the grant: "We are very grateful to The Lily Foundation for supporting our project, and we are excited to start the work. We have studied nucleoside supplementation as a potential treatment for MDDS in human cells. Now the work in zebrafish will be an important step towards establishing it as treatment option for patients."

Accepting a grant on behalf of researchers looking at ways to improve the diagnosis and management of balance disturbances in mitochondrial disorders, Dr Robert Pitceathly, Consultant Neurologist at MRC Centre for Neuromuscular Diseases, UCL, said: “The research funding received from The Lily Foundation will enable us to validate a framework we have developed to precisely diagnose the underlying cause of balance disturbance, thereby allowing earlier and targeted management of symptoms, aimed at reducing falls, improving safety and ultimately enhancing quality of life. Without the fantastic support provided by The Lily Foundation this work would not be possible."

Michal Minczuk, Programme Leader at the MRC Mitochondrial Biology Unit, University of Cambridge, received a grant for his team's work on genome editing to treat mitochondrial DNA diseases. He commented: "The Minczuk Laboratory is delighted to have its application for a grant from The Lily Foundation accepted, and to have received the funding to support a full post-graduate studentship at the University of Cambridge. This support, in addition to the existing funding from the Medical Research Council, will help us to deliver the pre-clinical programme aiming at testing our therapeutic approach for a future cure for mitochondrial diseases."  

Information about all three research projects, along with other studies currently being funded by The Lily Foundation, is available to view here.

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