Neonatal seizures research awarded Cerebral Palsy Alliance funding

Hudson Institute researchers will work with Monash University and Monash Health colleagues on an exciting new therapy for the treatment of neonatal seizures – following funding from the Cerebral Palsy Alliance.

Dr Tamara Yawno outlining a new treatment for neonatal seizures
Dr Tamara Yawno

More than $263,000 was awarded to Monash Newborn Research by the Cerebral Palsy Alliance.

Hudson Institute researchers Dr Tamara Yawno and Research Group Head, Professor Suzie Miller will be working with the lead investigator, Professor Rod Hunt (Chair in Neonatal Paediatrics at Monash University) and other colleagues from Monash Health and Monash University, A/Prof Michael Fahey and Dr Atul Malhotra to test a new medication (Ganaxolone) as a treatment for neonatal seizures. This world first trial known as GAINs will test the feasibility and efficacy of this drug in newborn babies with seizures.

Prof Hunt said, “Neonatal seizures can be a serious sign of brain injury in newborn babies. Current therapies to treat these seizures are not always effective and can have their own side effects. This grant from the CPA will help us translate a promising new therapy, that was developed at Hudson Institute, for these seizures.”

Dr Tamara Yawno has been studying the role of neurosteroids in preventing brain injury for the past 10 years.

“We have shown that endogenous neurosteroid pathways in the fetal brain are essential for normal brain development, and they are affected when a developing baby is compromised,” Dr Yawno said.

“They also have the potential to be neuroprotective and function as effective anti-seizure agents.

“Seizures in neonates are relatively common and are strong predictors of long-term cognitive and developmental impairment like cerebral palsy. Current anti-seizure therapies like phenobarbitone have been shown to cause brain injury as they have the potential to be neurotoxic.

“In our unique preclinical model of birth asphyxia, we have developed ganaxolone (a synthetic neurosteroid) as a treatment to protect the developing brain and reduce seizures for the first 48 hours of life.

“Ganaxolone is among the first commercially viable neurosteroid treatments and is furthest along in development as a potential FDA-approved medication. Ganaxolone has been studied so far in epilepsy and has demonstrated good tolerance and safety in more than 900 subjects. However, it has not been tested on newborn babies. This is a world-first clinical trial that will test the efficacy of ganaxolone in the treatment of neonatal seizures.

“It is exciting to see your research translate from bench-side to bed-side. I hope that ganaxolone will be the next safe and effective first line treatment for neonatal seizures.”

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