MRC grants £720,000.00 for UCL phase 1 study in hepatic encephalopathy

30 September 2008

Further to key discoveries by Professor Rajiv Jalan and The Liver Failure Group at UCL, the Medical Research Council has awarded a grant of £720,000.00 to support breakthrough work in finding an effective treatment for hepatic encephalopathy.

Professor Jalan and his co-investigators have made considerable progress in the fight against this little understood complication of liver disease, where a failure of the liver to effectively detoxify the blood can lead to brain dysfunction, the manifestation of which ranges from subtle derangement’s in everyday functioning, attention, driving ability and fatigue to advanced stages of coma and potentially fatal brain swelling (encephalopathy).

The main focus of the Liver Failure Group, is to better understand the mechanisms of liver failure and use the knowledge to develop new biomarkers of disease and design novel therapeutic strategies. The research group includes clinicians and scientists who work closely at the Institute of Hepatology and UCH.

Four Patents have been filed in the last two years covering the following:

  • Diagnostic biomarkers for liver failure and alcoholic hepatitis
  • A liver dialysis machine focusing on reversing altered albumin biology and inflammatory response in liver failure

Professor Jalan’s team has developed a potential therapeutic drug that targets multiple organs such as the muscle, gut and kidneys to detoxify ammonia, which is thought to be central in the pathogenesis of hepatic encephalopathy. Supported by successes in animal models and positive preliminary human data, this grant from the MRC will allow the team to undertake clinical studies that will constitute the first study in man of this new therapeutic drug.

The team is understandably delighted with news of the grant, which will allow them to push forward towards an effective treatment for the syndrome. “Treatment of hepatic encephalopathy is an unmet clinical need affecting up to 50% of patients with established liver disease. The research funded by the MRC is a collaborative study involving The New Royal Infirmary, Edinburgh, which will provide valuable data to further develop this unique concept and potentially provide solutions to this devastating and yet unsolved problem”, said Professor Jalan.

UCL Business are especially pleased to see such a positive response from the MRC, following a great deal of focused effort to secure the support this project deserves. “This is a great new therapeutic drug for which there is an unmet clinical need”, said Abbie Watts, Senior Business Manager at UCLB.

Further Information
For further information contact Abbie Watts, Senior Business Manager, UCL Business PLC on 020 7679 9000, (a.watts@uclb.com) or Dr Rajiv Jalan (r.jalan@ucl.ac.uk).