University College Dublin Researcher Awarded ERC Proof-of-Concept Funding for Parkinson’s Disease Project

Professor Madeleine Lowery, UCD School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering

University College Dublin Researcher Awarded ERC Proof-of-Concept Funding for Parkinson’s Disease Project

A University College Dublin (UCD) researcher, Professor Madeleine Lowery, is among 62 European Research Council (ERC) grant holders who have today been awarded an ERC Proof-of-Concept or ‘top-up’ grant of €150,000 to explore the commercial or societal potential of their ERC-funded frontier research results.

Professor Lowery’s research in the UCD School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering is focused on using engineering methods to model the brain, nerves and muscles to improve technology which is used to treat motor symptoms associated with Parkinson’s disease.

In 2015 Professor Lowery was awarded an ERC Consolidator Grant of €2 million, over 5-years, for a research project focused on deep brain stimulation (DBS) therapy used to treat the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.

While DBS has emerged as an effective treatment for the symptoms of Parkinson's disease (PD) over the last 25-years, the mechanisms of DBS are not yet fully understood.

Current DBS systems operate in an 'open-loop' configuration with stimulus parameters (amplitude, pulse duration and frequency) empirically set and remaining fixed over time. Patients can however experience side effects and poor control of symptoms associated with suboptimal programming of stimulus parameters. 

A ‘closed-loop’ DBS system offers an alternative approach that has the potential to overcome current limitations and increase therapeutic efficacy while reducing side-effects by automatically adjusting stimulation parameters as required.

Through her ERC-funded project, Professor Lowery and her research team have developed biophysically detailed computational models of the neural circuits in the brain during DBS and are using these to develop and test novel algorithms for closed-loop DBS.

Professor Lowery, UCD School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering said, “We are delighted to have been awarded proof-of-concept funding by the ERC. While the potential benefits of closed-loop DBS are widely recognised these systems have not yet been clinically implemented as feasibility must first to be demonstrated. The funding announced today will enable us commence pre-clinical testing of the closed-loop system we are developing and evaluate commercialisation strategies.”

PoC grants can be used in various ways, such as exploring business opportunities, preparing patent applications or verifying the practical viability of scientific concepts.

This latest round of grants, totaling €9.3 million in funding, includes the 1000th project, (based in the University of Alcalá, Spain), to receive PoC funding since the scheme commenced in 2011.

Carlos Moedas, European Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, said, “Europe excels in turning money into great science, but still has to improve its ability to turn excellent science into money and benefits to society. For the past eight years, ERC Proof of Concept grants have helped top researchers progress in the world of entrepreneurship. I believe the new European Innovation Council will also be able to assist them in their endeavors.”

The new grants were awarded to researchers working in 15 countries: Austria (1), Belgium (3), Denmark (2), Finland (2), France (6), Germany (4), Greece (2), Ireland (2), Israel (3), Italy (9), Netherlands (8), Romania (1), Spain (4), Switzerland (5) and the UK (10).


25 July 2019

For more information contact Micéal Whelan, Communications and Media Relations Manager, NovaUCD, UCD Research and Innovation, t: + 353 1 716 3712, e:

Editors Notes

Proof of Concept (PoC) grants were created by the ERC’s Scientific Council to complement the range of ERC core grants and other activities, which all form part of Horizon 2020, the EU's Research and Innovation programme. The budget for the 2019 PoC competition, which takes place in three rounds, is €25 million. The ERC evaluated 132 applications for this latest round of funding, the second in 2019.

The European Research Council, set up by the European Union in 2007, is the premiere European funding organisation for excellent frontier research. Every year, it selects and funds the very best, creative researchers of any nationality and age, to run projects in Europe. The ERC also strives to attract top researchers from anywhere in the world to come to work in Europe. To date, the ERC has funded around 9,000 top researchers at various stages of their careers. It offers four core grant schemes: Starting, Consolidator, Advanced and Synergy Grants.