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Multiple Sclerosis pioneer wins prestigious award

Thursday, 26th September, 2013 2:11pm
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Multiple Sclerosis pioneer wins prestigious award

UCC’s Dr Eric Downer has received a Neuroscience Ireland Early Career Investigator Award for his pioneering research into the cannabinoid system and how it can contribute to treating Multiple Sclerosis.

‘It is an important time in the field of cannabinoid-based scientific research, particularly in terms of cannabis-based therapies associated with MS’, says Dr Downer, a principal investigator and lecturer in the Department of Anatomy & Neuroscience, UCC.

‘My research has indicated that MS patient cells, and not cells isolated from healthy individuals, respond to cannabinoid therapy in terms of boosting protective intracellular signaling events. The current goal of my research group is to establish the precise cellular and molecular mechanism by which cannabinoids control such events in MS patients, and furthermore aims to establish the relevance of this to the progression of the disease.’

Dr Downer, who was appointed to a UCC lectureship in January 2013, received the award at the eighth Neuroscience Ireland Conference, hosted recently by UCC. He is currently involved in teaching anatomy and neuroscience modules for Dental, Science, Occupational Therapy and Speech and Language Therapy students.

Dr Downer’s research interest is rooted in Neuroimmunology, with emphasis on the role of the innate immune system in neuroinflammatory conditions. He has a particular interest in the cannabinoid system, and its role in regulating neuroinflammation.

His research in this field has made significant contributions to our understanding of cannabinoids as anti-inflammatory therapies, particularly in Multiple Sclerosis. He leads an active research group, and his research has been funded by the Irish Research Council for Science and Engineering and Technology (IRCSET), the Health Research Board (HRB) and the Translational Research Access Programme (TRAP).

Dr Downer has published 21 research articles and book chapters, and acts as an expert reviewer for 13 journals, and as Editor for the British Journal of Pharmacology, Advances in Medicine, International Journal of Cell Biology and Neuroscience Journal. He is the current secretary of the Cannabinoid Ireland Research Committee, and acts a council member for the Royal Academy of Medicine in Ireland (Biomedical Sciences section).

Dr Downer has been previously honoured with the Royal Academy of Medicine in Ireland Early Career Award (2009).