THE author JK Rowling has made a "major" donation to fund research into multiple sclerosis, the disease from which her late mother suffered, it was announced yesterday.
She made the undisclosed award to help fund a 2.5 million project at Edinburgh University. Researchers there hope to pool studies from around the world to create new treatments for sufferers of MS - a devastating disease affecting the central nervous system. Rowling's mother, Anne, died aged 45 in 1990 after developing complications from rapidly progressive MS.
The Harry Potter author has since become patron of the Multiple Sclerosis Society Scotland and boosted fundraising for research into the disease.
Yesterday, she said she hoped the new centre would help in the search for a cure for the illness, which is more common in Scotland than the rest of the UK. It affects about one in 500 Scots, compared with one in 800 in the UK as a whole.
The project, to be based at the Centre for Regenerative Medicine at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, will be funded mainly by the MS Society Scotland.
Rowling said: "It means a great deal to me to be able to provide support for this much-needed research centre."
The researchers hope to take discoveries about MS found in the lab to patients in so-called "bench to bedside" studies. The work will look at how experts can repair damaged parts of the nervous system in patients and prevent further deterioration.
Peter Sandercock, professor of medical neurology at the university, said the aim was to appoint a world-leading scientist to head the centre by September with a view to starting work as soon as possible after that.
"We want to bring together a new mix of people with the hope of producing something new and better that hasn't come out of research elsewhere," he said.
"We want to be able to reduce the risk of disability from MS and prevent it developing in the first place. We hope that we will find something that will enable us to do that better."
The scientists hope the centre will strengthen links with other British and international MS experts in a bid to reach a better understanding of the condition.
The MS Society Scotland has donated 2.1 million towards the project, of which a "substantial sum" has been donated by Edinburgh-based Rowling.
The society's director, Mark Hazelwood, said the charity was "enormously grateful" to her, adding:
"JK Rowling is a hugely committed patron with a great passion for the cause of multiple sclerosis and that has helped us in all sorts of work."