The Epilepsy Foundation currently supports four different career awards, in partnership with the American Epilepsy Society, in order to grow the crucial next generation of epilepsy scientists and clinician-researchers. From the successful applicant pool, our generous donors designate which grantee they would like to honor with a Kevin’s Fellowship.​ The following researchers are among the first to receive Kevin’s Fellowships.

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2019 Kevin's Fellows

2019 Kevin's Fellows
From left to right: Vice President of Research and New Therapies Brandy Fureman, PhD and awardees Alicia Guemez Gamboa, PhD, William Nobis, MD, and Behnaz Esmaeili, MD at the 2019 presentation of the Kevin's Fellows.

Alicia Guemez Gamboa, PhD

Area: Uncovering Altered Connectivity in Epilepsy due to Somatic Mutations

Dr. Gamboa is a 2019 Junior Investigator Research Awardee. To better understand how somatic mutations could impact epilepsy and brain circuits, Dr. Gamboa has created a mouse model that causes brain cell-specific genetic mutations that activate the mTOR pathway during cortical development. There are many studies that observe a frequent hyperactivation of mTOR signaling in epilepsy. For example, seizures associated with Tuberous Sclerosis, a rare genetic epilepsy syndrome, is treated by mTOR inhibitors. In this research proposal, she will explore how somatic mutations in the mTOR pathway in a contained population of neurons result in network abnormalities that lead to epilepsy. The disease mechanisms that arise from this research could lay the groundwork for new therapeutic approaches.

William Nobis, MD, PhD

Area: The Role of the Extended Amygdala in Respiratory Control and SUDEP

Dr. Nobis is a 2019 Junior Investigator Research Awardee. In previous work, Dr. Nobis established that an area of the brain known as the extended amygdala causes apnea when stimulated. Dr. Nobis hypothesizes that this region or the parabrachial nucleus, another area implicated in respiratory control, may be activated during a seizure and thus cause the observed seizure-induced apneas. Using animal models that study SUDEP, he will test whether and how these brain regions are impacted during a seizure, and how this can impact respiratory control. Understanding this pathway and its role could open up new prevention strategies for those at high risk of SUDEP.

Behnaz Esmaeili, MD

Area: Intracranial EEG Suppression and Heart Rate Variability in Epilepsy

Dr. Esmaeili is a 2019 Clinical Research and Training Fellow. Dr. Esmaeili will be mining data from a data repository from the epilepsy monitoring unit of 5 major academic epilepsy centers to understand the range of characteristics of the brain activity and heart rate variability post-seizure. She will be observing whether there are any significant factors in either of these two measurements in confirmed SUDEP cases. This work could highlight physiological factors that indicate who is at higher risk of SUDEP.

2017 Kevin's Fellows

Kevin's Fellows 2017

Gemma Carville, PhD (left), Trisha Barnes, and Luca Bartolini, MD at the 2017 presentation of for Kevin’s Fellows

Gemma Carvill, PhD

Area: Expanding Epilepsy Genetics beyond the Exome — Assistant Professor of Neurology, Northwestern University

Dr. Carvill is a 2017 Junior Investigator Research Awardee. The overall mission of Dr. Gemma Carvill’s lab is to define the genetic basis of epilepsy, understand disease mechanisms, and develop new therapeutics. Current medications only treat the outward symptoms of a seizure, but not the underlying cause. Genetics provide a clue to the potential mechanisms for why the epilepsy begins. Over the past few years, there have been tremendous progress in identifying novel genetic causes for pediatric epilepsy subtypes. This research will focus on the role that newly uncovered mutations in the sodium channels SCN1, SCN2, and SCN8A have on the brain network. Dr. Carvill will study how these variants impact neuronal networks and assess how common these genetic variations are in pediatric populations with severe cases of epilepsy.

Luca Bartolini, MD

Area: Research Study on Viral and Inflammatory Causes of Epilepsy — Children’s National Health System and National Institute of Neurological Diseases and Stroke (NINDS)

Dr. Bartolini is a 2017 Clinical Research & Training Fellow. Inflammation is one of the many causes attributed to having seizures. An earlier study suggested that the herpes virus HHV-6B was present in the brains of children with febrile status epilepticus and temporal lobe epilepsy. However, the actual association between herpes virus infection and acute seizures is unknown. Dr. Luca Bartolini will examine whether herpes virus’s infection may contribute to the onset of acute seizures in children. Specifically, he will test whether children who come to the clinic with high fevers and acute seizures are more likely to be infected with the herpes virus versus those who appear in the clinic without high fevers. He has previously demonstrated that such a test can be easily performed with a saliva swab sample. These studies may lay the foundation for understanding whether viral infections predict seizures in children, and if so, how this process could be prevented (for example, with anti-inflammatory therapies).

Our 2016 Kevin’s Fellow

Christine Baca

Christine Baca, MD

Area: Understanding pediatric to adult epilepsy transition care gaps — University of Colorado

Dr. Baca is a 2016 Junior Research Investigator Awardee

Many children with epilepsy continue to have active seizures into adolescence and young adulthood. Care for these individuals needs to transition and then be fully transferred from a pediatric to an adult provider. Transitions of care from pediatrics to adults can often be complex for adolescents with chronic medical conditions. This research project will examine the transition care gaps that exist for patients with epilepsy, evaluate predictors of transition care, and then examine pediatric and adult epilepsy care provider perceptions of effective epilepsy transition care and clinic models.

Survey results of those impacted by epilepsy is showing that over two-thirds of adolescents with epilepsy did not have discussions of transition preparation with their provider. These gaps were the most profound for youth with epilepsy with comorbid intellectual and/or developmental disability, where arguably the discussion is needed most. Interviews with pediatric and adult epileptologists have also demonstrated extensive and multifactorial barriers that are encountered by patients, families and health care providers. The results of this study will be used to inform the development of a future transition care model.

Dr. Baca has presented these findings at the American Epilepsy Society 2017 and the American Academy of Neurology 2018, and is submitting an abstract to present on this topic at the American Epilepsy Society 2018. She is currently writing up a manuscript that will be submitted this summer for publication.