On 14th and 15th March 2019, fifty world-leading experts in epilepsy and neurodevelopmental disorder research were brought together by ERUK for our 12th International Expert Workshop at St Anne’s College, Oxford. Our International Expert Workshop first began in 1993, and since then has been a recurring biennial event.

Speakers included Professor Ingrid Scheffer, University of Melbourne, Professor Jack Parent, Prof Dennis Lal, Professor Scott Baraban, as well as ERUK’s President, Professor Helen Cross. ERUK also invited a number of leading experts in the field to take part in the discussions following each session and at the end of each day.

As scientists we know that each increment in knowledge, every marginal gain, when added together can make big differences to the lives of people with epilepsy.
Professor Sameer Zuberi, Workshop chair

The Expert Workshop comprised six sessions, each exploring a different aspect of epilepsy and neurodevelopmental disorders. The session themes ranged from epileptic encephalopathy, genetic epilepsies, behaviour and development, to molecular therapeutic strategies. Each session was followed by a chaired discussion to help identify and prioritise future research directions and forge collaborations.

What’s remarkable about the expert workshop is that it is very small, compared to many other scientific conferences. But we have found that it is its very size that makes it so effective in facilitating discussion, collaboration and priority setting.

Specific highlights included Professor Stephanie Schorge’s talk on recent advances in gene therapy, Professor Scott Baraban’s talk on cell therapies, and Professor Michael Johnson’s talk on computer-based models of epilepsy.

A talk from Professor Dennis Lal on rare genetic epilepsies and neurodevelopment drew gasps of amazement from the audience as he debuted a brand new online tool to help interpret genetic variants of epilepsy.

All workshop attendees agreed that the event had influenced their future research or clinical practice, and that they had all left with significant new learnings with regard to research into epilepsy and neurodevelopmental disorders. We look forward to seeing the scientific breakthroughs from the countless new collaborations that the workshop has forged, over the coming months and years.