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Spotlight on… Dr James W Mitchell

Dr James W Mitchell

Early Career Co-Lead for the Institute’s Capacity Building research theme

- Neurology registrar, The Walton Centre in Liverpool

Dr James W Mitchell is an Early Career Co-Lead for the Institute’s Capacity Building research theme. Dr Mitchell is also a neurology registrar at The Walton Centre in Liverpool, a recent Association of British Neurologists and Guarantors of Brain Research Fellow and has led the EPSET Project to develop an international core outcome set for studies assessing epilepsy treatments. In this Feature, Dr Mitchell discusses his patient-centred work, his hopes for creating a vibrant research ecosystem and an important new survey to assess current capacity in epilepsy research.    

In a nutshell, tell us about your research.

My research focuses on how we measure outcomes and the impact of treatments for people with epilepsy. Outcomes can be the number of seizures or the severity of seizures someone experiences, the impact of seizures on work, school, social and family life, symptoms of low mood and anxiety, amongst many others

Historically, the outcomes that are measured when deciding if treatments are effective and safe have not been chosen considering the views of people with epilepsy. In addition, different researchers have measured different outcomes, or the same outcome in different ways within their studies. This means that previously measured outcomes may not be meaningful to people with epilepsy, and it has been a challenge to compare research findings and draw conclusions across multiple studies.

I have been working with international groups of people with epilepsy, their representatives, researchers and clinicians, to define meaningful outcomes and develop an international core outcome set for clinical trials for adults with epilepsy and for routine clinical practice.

What impact do you hope your research will have?

We have reached a consensus from key stakeholders on what outcomes we should be measuring. The challenge is now influencing change and ensuring that the outcomes defined as ‘critical to measure’ are captured and reported on in future research assessing new and existing treatments. This involves working closely with researchers across the globe, regulatory agencies, and the funders of research to ensure there is widespread endorsement for the core outcome sets. These changes are not going to happen overnight, but our long-term goals are to ensure that treatments are informed by measuring what matters to people living with epilepsy, and that it becomes easier to combine and compare research from different researchers in different settings. This harmonised approach should reduce research waste, and in some instances mean that we can determine the effectiveness of treatments for epilepsy more quickly.

What do you hope the Institute’s Capacity Building research theme will achieve for epilepsy research and for people affected by the condition?

We are at an exciting point for epilepsy research in the UK, and internationally. The Epilepsy Research Institute aims to break down historical barriers for collaborative working. We are building an infrastructure that supports research crossing institutions, themes, and disciplines to rapidly advance research in the key areas identified in the UK Epilepsy Priority Setting Partnership (PSP). Central to the Institute’s mission is ensuring we build capacity for the future by strengthening the network of epilepsy researchers and supporting research partnerships. Crucially, we must ensure that early career researchers are attracted to the field of epilepsy, effectively mentored and supported through their career progression so that they are retained to keep working in epilepsy research. The Capacity Building research theme have a number of events planned for this year, including Epilepsy Research Institute Insights webinars and the Institute’s inaugural Emerging Leader Symposium in May 2024, where we will launch our mentorship programme. We hope to see many of you there!

You can sign up to to be the first to know about upcoming events.

What can current researchers, or people thinking about undertaking epilepsy research do to help the Institute?

For the Institute to achieve its goals, and strengthen the network of epilepsy researchers, we first need to assess the current research community. We need to find out what is required to support growth for the epilepsy research ecosystem and what can be done to secure greater investment for the future. To do this, we have launched the Epilepsy Research Institute Capacity Building survey which aims to assess current capacity in epilepsy research and explore the facilitators and barriers to engaging with and undertaking multidisciplinary research.

If you are a healthcare professional or researcher, please take 20-25 minutes of your time to share your experience and views. Your responses are extremely important to the Capacity Building research theme and will help shape the work of the Epilepsy Research Institute.

Take the survey here