CPA researchers bring their knowledge of cerebral palsy and stem cell research to the PREMSTEM project

CPA researchers bring their knowledge of cerebral palsy and stem cell research to the PREMSTEM project
Posted on Wed 29 Jul 2020


CPA is proud to be a partner on PREMSTEM, a major research project funded by the European Union which seeks to develop a first of its kind cell therapy to treat brain injury in babies born too soon.


Research focussed on a large and fragile patient group

Every year, around 8% of Australian babies are born preterm – that is, before 37 weeks of a typical 40-week pregnancy. Worldwide, this equates to more than 15 million babies every year. Thanks to medical advances, survival rates for these babies have improved drastically over the past few decades, however often these babies continue to face significant long-term health issues.


A new treatment for the leading cause of cerebral palsy 

A baby’s development advances rapidly in the last few weeks of pregnancy and disturbances such as an early birth can lead to brain injury. Although there is no single cause of cerebral palsy, we know that premature birth is a risk factor which increases its occurrence.


PREMSTEM is a €9M (approx. AUD$14M) research project funded by the European Union’s prestigious Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme focussed on developing a stem cell therapy to reduce the impact of preterm birth related brain injury. For this project, PREMSTEM researchers will use a type of stem cell obtained from the umbilical cord.


Our role in the PREMSTEM project

CPA is one of the two major advocacy groups involved in PREMSTEM, with the specific role to increase the visibility and impact of the project by speeding up the translation of the research findings. As the largest private philanthropic source of cerebral palsy research funding worldwide, CPA is represented in the project by Professor Iona Novak and Dr Megan Finch-Edmondson.

Prof Novak has a significant track record in generating and translating new cerebral palsy intervention knowledge, including conducting clinical trials and systematic reviews, building collaborative research networks and translating research into practice.

Dr Megan Finch-Edmondson is a research fellow with experience in stem cell biology, research translation and consumer engagement. Her role at CPA is to build capacity for stem cell research for cerebral palsy, particularly in clinical trials – which the PREMSTEM team strives to commence as a result of this research in the future.


“We are delighted to be part of the PREMSTEM project and collaborating with world-leading clinicians, researchers and healthcare organisations specialised in neonatology in both Europe and Australia,” says Prof Novak.


“We will be heavily involved in the engagement aspect of the project to ensure that we provide a voice for people with cerebral palsy and their families. In addition to prevention and optimal treatments, we know that stem cell research is of high priority to people with cerebral palsy.”


Prof Novak and Dr Finch-Edmondson are working closely with several other partners to ensure that members of the cerebral palsy community have the opportunity to contribute their distinctive perspectives throughout the project. They have already invited and engaged two members of their existing Cerebral Palsy Stem Cell Reference Group; a person with lived experience of cerebral palsy and a parent of a child diagnosed with cerebral palsy, to participate in the Patient/Consumer Advisory Board which will provide a unique perspective to the research group.


“We look forward to updating the CPA community on the progress of the PREMSTEM project and ensuring that the views and interests of people with cerebral palsy are at the front of mind throughout,” says Dr Finch-Edmondson.


Further information

Visit the PREMSTEM website or follow the project’s Twitter and LinkedIn profiles to hear updates about PREMSTEM plus other news related to this field of research.


This project has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement Number 874721.

Dr Madison Paton, an expert in stem cells at the Cerebral Palsy Alliance Research Institute, has been awarded the 2022 White Coats Foundation ‘Power of One’ Grant.

Exciting news — Cerebral Palsy Alliance Research Foundation is launching a new podcast featuring Remarkable participants that highlights the stories behind life-changing science and innovative disability tech.