Epilepsy drug and climate stripes nominated for Guardian University Awards24 March 2020
A new drug on the NHS to treat a rare forms of epilepsy, and a graphic that helps explain the rising global temperatures caused by climate change have been shortlisted for entries for the Guardian University Awards 2020.
The two University of Reading research projects were announced in the Guardian awards shortlist and will be competing for the ‘Research Impact’ and ‘Marketing and Comms campaign’ categories at the upcoming ceremony held later in 2020.
Professor Parveen Yaqoob, Deputy Vice Chancellor and Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research and Innovation, University of Reading, said:
“The research we do at the University is addressing the most significant challenges of our time. As well as extensive scientific research, Epidyolex is also the result of vital industry engagement to deliver the benefits to patients quicker. Equally important is how we communicate the impact of our research to the wider public. Ed Hawkins’s climate stripes visual is perhaps one of the best and most important examples of public engagement with research. Congratulations to all our nominees for making the shortlist”.
A new medicine for childhood epilepsy
Children suffering with forms of epilepsy got a major boost this year as a cannabinoid-based drug was approved on the NHS, based on years of fundamental research carried out at the University of Reading.
Professor Claire Williams in Psychology, Professor Gary Stephens in Pharmacy and former University of Reading academic, Professor Ben Whalley have been shortlisted for the ‘Research Impact category’ in recognition of the launch of a new drug treatment for rare forms of epilepsy in children.
In September 2019, after many years of research at the University of Reading led by Professors Claire Williams, Gary Stephens and Ben Whalley, a new drug - Epidyolex - has become the first cannabinoid-derived medicine to be approved in the EU for clinical use in epilepsy, providing a safe treatment for children with two rare forms of the disease. Epidyolex became fully available to patients on the NHS in January 2020.
Professor Gary Stephens, whose work alongside Prof Williams and Prof Ben Whalley developed the foundation of pre-clinical work that led to the development of Epidiolex said:
“I am delighted our research into these potentially life threatening disorders has been shortlisted for the Guardian University Awards. Epidyolex is the result of many years of interdisciplinary research and collaboration with industry partners GW Pharmaceuticals. We are now exploring how use of Epidyolex can be extended for the treatment of other diseases.”
Epilepsy affects around 50 million people across the world. People with epilepsy experience fits or seizures repeatedly and without warning. Most patients can control their seizures using anti-epileptic drugs, but for 30% of epilepsy patients the drugs don't work, or they produce side effects that cannot be tolerated.
Among those who don’t respond to conventional epilepsy drugs are children with two rare forms of the disease called Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome. These children can experience dozens of seizures daily, causing cognitive disabilities by school age with many requiring wheelchair use before they reach secondary school. One third of these children will die before they reach adulthood.
The team behind the development of the Epidyolex (Epidiolex in US) have also recently received the prestigious 2019 Sir James Black award for Contributions to Drug Discovery for their efforts.
Highlighting the importance of climate science
Professor Ed Hawkins together with The University’s Marketing, Communications and Engagement Team have been shortlisted for the ‘Marketing and Comms campaign’ category for their campaign to raise awareness of climate change.
Ed Hawkins, professor of climate science at the University of Reading, came up with the climate stripes for global temperature increase in May 2018. He said:
“Climate change is an immensely complicated problem. One of the biggest issues is how to communicate the reality and the scale of global heating to a public that needs to understand it to respond to it.
“With no words, no numbers, and no line graphs, the graphic uses 170 vertical coloured bars showing the progressive heating of our planet, in a single, instantly understandable image.”
The climate stripes, which was shared initially on Twitter has inspired people to use the graphic to decorate clothes, and wall murals right through to painting a Tesla in the coloured bars.
Dozens of TV weather presenters in the US celebrated the June 2018 summer solstice by wearing climate stripes-themed badges, ties and necklaces for their forecasts, highlighting the reality of global warming to their audience.
To build on the growing movement in summer 2019, Professor Hawkins worked with colleagues across the University of Reading to create #ShowYourStripes, without any additional budget. With the support of the University’s Marketing, Communications and Enaggement Team, The #ShowYourStripes campaign was amplified through a week-long ‘Made at Reading’ season of communications in June 2019.
Within a week, the stripes had been downloaded more than a million times. To name just a few highlights, there have now been well over 2 million downloads and the stripes have been adopted at high-profile events and Broadcast meteorologists around the world featured the stripes on their programmes, including the BBC, ITV, NBC and the Weather Channel.
Professor Ed Hawkins said: “It’s a privilege to be shortlisted for a Guardian University Award and it will also help to raise further awareness of climate change. It is important to communicate what is often seen as complicated science, in an accessible way so that the public understand and can make sense of the big challenges faced by humanity. Through the warming stripes campaign, we hope that by raising awareness of meteorological data in a visual way more people will understand the reality of climate change.”
The Guardian Awards recognise pioneering work, research, innovation and impact on UK higher education and the benefits these activities deliver for the wider public. This year the Awards are spread across 15 categories with 31 Universities making the shortlist.
While the award ceremony was originally scheduled for 2 April, however given growing concerns over public health and safety due to the Coronavirus, The Guardian Award organisers have decided to move the event to later in the year with the date still to be confirmed.