A migraine research triumph

Photo: Professor Debbie Hay, Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, University of Otago

The Royal Society of New Zealand announced the recipients of the 2023 Marsden Fund this month. We were super excited to see that they awarded $941,000 to Professor Debbie Hay, for research into CGRP receptors and their relationship to migraine disease.

The Marsden Fund is both prestigious and highly competitive, having been established in 1994 to support “fundamental research” and is considered the “hallmark of excellence for research in Aotearoa New Zealand.” Only around 12% of applications are successful. This year, 123 research projects were funded to the tune of $83 million.

Professor Hay, with co-principal investigator Dr Michael Garelja, will be digging further into the complexities of the calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) receptors. These receptors, and CGRP itself, are the target of the new migraine treatments, such as Emgality (galcanezumab) and the gepants. However, although the CGRP system has a significant role in mediating migraine attacks, the anti-CGRP medications do not have the same level of effectiveness for all people with migraine.

Professor Hay and Dr Garelja will be looking at two types of CGRP receptor, to see whether these might be working together to create, as they call it, “double trouble” for people with migraine. Professor Hay’s team is already well established in investigating the CGRP system and this grant will mean they can continue this work.

“Any research that helps us understand the mechanisms of migraine offers new perspectives and potential new approaches to treatment,” Professor Hay says.

This important work has the potential to have a meaningful impact not just on people with migraine in NZ but worldwide. Huge congratulations to Professor Hay and her team for their dedication to this work and many thanks to the Royal Society for recognizing the importance of migraine research in NZ.