Public Release: 

Clinic puts patients at heart of multiple sclerosis research

A research clinic for multiple sclerosis patients is being set up with a £10 million donation from the author JK Rowling

University of Edinburgh

A research clinic for multiple sclerosis patients is being set up with a £10 million donation from the author J K Rowling.

The Anne Rowling Regenerative Neurology Clinic at the University of Edinburgh will place patients at the heart of research to improve outcomes for multiple sclerosis sufferers.

This will focus on patient-based studies to help find treatments that could slow progression of the disease, working towards the eventual aim of stopping and reversing it.

The Anne Rowling Regenerative Neurology Clinic is named after Ms Rowling's mother, who died of multiple sclerosis aged 45.

Work at the clinic will also provide insight into other degenerative neurological conditions, such as Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, Huntington's disease and Motor Neurone Disease.

As with multiple sclerosis, these disorders are progressive and incurable.

The clinic follows on from the setting up of the Centre for Multiple Sclerosis Research at the University in 2007, which has also received support from the Harry Potter author.

Ms Rowling said: "I cannot think of anything more important, or of more lasting value, than to help the university attract world-class minds in the field of neuroregeneration, to build on its long and illustrious history of medical research and, ultimately, to seek a cure for a very Scottish disease." (A full statement from J K Rowling is below.)

The Anne Rowling Regenerative Neurology Clinic will be based in a purpose-built facility within the University's Chancellor's Building, next to the city's Royal Infirmary and within Edinburgh BioQuarter at Little France. This development will build on Edinburgh's strong track records in patient-focused clinical research on neurological disorders and in imaging of the brain and nervous system.

It is the single largest donation that the author has given to a charitable cause. This is also the largest single donation that the University has received.

Clinical academics will work closely with a critical mass of researchers studying neurodegenerative disorders already based at the University.

This will include expertise from the Centre for Multiple Sclerosis Research, the MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine, the Centre for Neuroregeneration, Euan MacDonald Centre for Motor Neuron Disease Research and Division of Clinical Sciences.

There will also be a major emphasis on training the next generation of researchers.

Professor Sir Timothy O'Shea, Principal of the University of Edinburgh, said: "This exceptionally generous donation will provide great help in the worldwide effort to improve treatments for multiple sclerosis. Work at the clinic will build on the already existing important research strengths in neurodegenerative disorders at the University, which benefit very considerably from our close partnership with NHS Lothian."

Multiple sclerosis affects around 100,000 people in the UK. Scotland has one of the highest rates of multiple sclerosis in the world, with some 10,500 people with the condition.

While there is some evidence to suggest that multiple sclerosis is caused by a combination of genetics and environmental factors the exact cause of the disease is not fully understood.

Professor Charles ffrench-Constant, co- director of the University of Edinburgh's Centre for Multiple Sclerosis Research and Director-elect the MRC Centre of Regenerative Medicine, said: "We can only find improved treatments if we can truly understand diseases and the biological processes behind them. The Anne Rowling Regenerative Neurology Clinic will enable us to carry out studies that can inform laboratory research and, in turn, this knowledge can be translated back into treatments for patients."

Multiple sclerosis causes myelin - a protective layer surrounding nerve cells in the brain - to break down. This then leads to the nerve cells, which send messages from the brain to other parts of the body, becoming damaged.

This can cause symptoms such as numbness, visual loss, fatigue, dizziness and weakness that lead to accumulating disability.

As with other neurological disorders, once the nerve cells are damaged they are not replaced causing the condition to progressively worsen.

Siddharthan Chandran, Professor of Neurology and co-director of the Centre for Multiple Sclerosis Research, said: "Multiple sclerosis has many features in common with other neurodegenerative disorders. As a result any discoveries from the Anne Rowling Regenerative Neurology Clinic will help us advance our understanding and treatment of all these related neurological diseases. Finding ways to slow progression of these conditions will make an enormous difference to patients' lives."

The donation is part of the Edinburgh Campaign, which aims to raise £350 million for initiatives across the University. This includes creating new hubs of learning, conserving iconic University buildings, furthering research and increasing the number of scholarships and bursaries available for students.

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Full statement from J K Rowling

It is with great pleasure and pride that I am donating £10 million to the Regenerative Neurology Clinic at the University of Edinburgh, which is to be named after my mother, Anne.

I have supported research into the cause and treatment of Multiple Sclerosis for many years now, but when I first saw the proposal for this clinic, I knew that I had found a project more exciting, more innovative, and, I believe, more likely to succeed in unravelling the mysteries of MS than any other I had read about or been asked to fund. I am incredibly impressed by the calibre of clinicians and researchers that Edinburgh has already managed to attract to make this project a reality, and I truly believe that it is set to become a world centre for excellence in the field of regenerative neurology.

The Anne Rowling Regenerative Neurology Clinic will be mould-breaking in the way that it places patients at the heart of the research and treatment process. While Multiple Sclerosis will be at the heart of the research initiative, people with the many other diseases caused by neurodegeneration are likely to benefit from discoveries made here.

So whole-heartedly do I believe in the concept of the clinic, and the passionate, dynamic people who are making it a reality, that I would have been thrilled to help wherever it had been situated. Nevertheless, the fact that it will be situated in Edinburgh, my home town, makes the project, if possible, even dearer to my heart. Edinburgh has given me so very much that I have been looking for a way to give something meaningful back to the city for a long time. I cannot think of anything more important, or of more lasting value, than to help the university attract world-class minds in the field of neuroregeneration, to build on its long and illustrious history of medical research and, ultimately, to seek a cure for a very Scottish disease.

I have just turned 45, the age at which my mother, Anne, died of complications related to her MS. I know that she would rather have had her name on this clinic than on any statue, flower garden or commemorative plaque, so this donation is on her behalf, too; and in gratitude for everything she gave me in her far-too-short life.

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