Cardiff University receives £1m investment to look after the brain’s immune system

£1m investment from the Hodge Foundation will enable researchers at Cardiff University to explore the role the brain’s immune system in brain disorders like Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia and epilepsy (Cardiff University, 2016).

The new five year partnership will establish The Hodge Centre for Neuropsychiatric Immunology and bring together leading experts in neuroscience and immunology.

The centre will facilitate collaboration between Cardiff University’s Neuroscience and Mental Health Research Institute and Systems Immunity Research Institute under the leadership of their respective directors, Professor Jeremy Hall and Professor Paul Morgan. It is expected that the centre, which will be virtual, will focus on the immune system in order to get a better understanding of why conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease and schizophrenia develop and which factors cause them to progress.

Major mental health disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease and schizophrenia are estimated to cost the UK economy over £37bn per year. They continue to place a significant burden on patients and their relatives through reduced quality of life, increased physical illness and disability, lost employment, discrimination and isolation.

Professor Jeremy Hall said “We are extremely grateful to the Hodge Foundation for their generous donation. Sadly, for many diseases like Alzheimer’s there have been few recent advances in treatment and no new drugs, whilst treatments that do exist are limited and often associated with unpleasant side effects. However, we do know that changes in our immune system is a factor in the development of brain disorders but more work is needed to explore this fully…Cardiff University is uniquely placed to do this as we have world-leading experts in both neuroscience and immunology who are keen to work together. Through this new Centre we will be able to gain a greater understanding of the causes and open up the potential development of new treatments.”

The Hodge Foundation supports medical research, principally in the areas of cancer and mental health, through the provision of grants to universities, medical institutions and research charities. Jonathan Hodge, Chair of the Hodge Foundation, said “As a Foundation, we are truly proud to support the world leading research taking place at Cardiff University. We have already seen our support produce tangible benefits in key areas of public health. Now Cardiff’s strengths in both neuroscience and immunology put them in an excellent position to make a rapid step change in their knowledge in this field and open up the hugely exciting possibility of new treatments for patients. We are delighted to play a part in this.”

The £1m donation from the Hodge Foundation will fund a Senior Fellowship which will help attract some of the very best young researchers already working in neuropsychiatric immunology to Wales.

It will also fund five Hodge Foundation PhDs, five pilot research studies and seed funding for innovative new ideas. The centre will also host a series of public lectures.

Professor Paul Morgan added “The link between the immune system and brain disorders has long been suspected and offers the potential for a new route to developing treatments for those at risk of developing these conditions. The Centre is an extremely important development as it will mean that we have a real opportunity to put the immune system at the centre stage of our understanding…Bringing experts in neuroscience and immunology together will bring better understanding of the immune processes in the brain so we can not only “re-purpose” existing drugs but hopefully design newer, and better ones.”

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