10th November 2020

Migraine researcher Dr Phil Holland highly commended and awarded an Emerging Leaders prize

Dr Holland is researching why the brain of a migraine patient abnormally processes pain signals during an attack

Congratulations to Dr Phil Holland for being awarded £10,000 as a runner-up in this year’s Medical Research Foundation Emerging Leaders Prize.

The awards are made to scientists from around the UK who are making outstanding contributions in the field of pain research.

Dr Holland, who is a senior lecturer from King’s College London, is leading research that aims to understand why the brain of a migraine patient abnormally processes pain signals during an attack and how to develop new treatments to reduce the impact of migraine on everyday life.

The Migraine Trust has supported this research through the funding of PhD student Lauren Strother, who is working on this research project. We are also funding a second of his PhD students, Hannah Creeney, who is studying neurophysiological role of amylin in migraine.

To date, Dr Holland has managed to use several of his research findings for new therapies that are in clinical development or already used successfully in patients, including a non-drug approach that delivers small magnetic pulses to the brain to help reduce pain signalling in migraine.

Explaining his research, Dr Holland said: “Most recently, my research has identified how our body’s daily rhythms across the sleep-wake cycle increase the likelihood of migraine attacks occurring during specific times of the day. This work has identified the importance of lifestyle factors like sleep patterns and shift work on an individual’s susceptibility, and we have rapidly shared this information with migraine sufferers and clinicians via patient awareness days and international meetings. This ensures our research has maximum impact for those who need it most, people suffering with migraine.”

He added: “I’m absolutely delighted to receive this award for my research, but also on behalf of everyone who suffers from migraine, which is an often under-appreciated condition. Using this prize fund will enable me to expedite the development of state-of-the-art approaches to image neural networks that are altered in people with migraine. I will combine these techniques with my established electrophysiological and chemogenetic approaches to facilitate our ability to track, trace and manipulate these neural networks, to determine their function in encoding and processing head pain.

“This award will be transformative for my research, but it will also increase my visibility and that of migraine, supporting my long-term aim of using innovative technology to explore mechanism-based research that will underpin future clinical translation.”

Congratulating Dr Holland on his award, Professor Peter Goadsby, trustee of The Migraine Trust, said:

“A huge congratulations to Dr Holland on his commendation in the Medical Research Foundation’s Emerging Leaders prize. Dr Holland is an important leader in the migraine community in two significant ways. Firstly, his innovative research is making an important contribution to our understanding of the neurological processes behind migraine. Secondly, his championing of migraine research and nurturing of new researchers. Migraine is a highly prevalent condition that it not only extremely painful and debilitating, but one that impacts many parts of a person’s life. That’s why it’s so important that people like Dr Holland are taking the lead in tackling it. His leadership will help improve many people’s lives.”