Research Program Information

The WED Foundation honors promising scientists whose work supports the goals of the Foundation through our WED Research Grant Program.

One important way that we foster change is to promote innovative research that will impact the lives of individuals living with Willis-Ekbom disease. The Foundation strives to spur the research community to generate novel ideas to unlock the mysteries that will ultimately lead to a cure for this often devastating disease.  On behalf of the WED/RLS patient community, the Foundation wants a safe, well-tolerated, and durable treatment for WED/RLS--in short, a cure--or ways to improve patients' quality of life.

The 2014 WED Research Grant was awarded
to Sergi Ferre, MD, PhD

The 2014 WED Research Grant was awarded to Sergi Ferre, MD, PhD Dr. Ferre’s research will explore cortico-striatal transmission in iron-deficient rats as a model for screening of drugs potentially useful in treatment of Willis-Ekbom disease.

There are multiple potential medications that for theoretical reasons should be considered beneficial for WED/RLS, but many of these are not available for human use and, for those that are available, testing them in WED/RLS patients would be expensive and time consuming. Efficient drug screening is needed to select drugs that seem promising for WED/RLS, which could then be studied in WED/RLS patients.This project aims at obtaining a new animal model for such screening.

The first goal of the project is to demonstrate that iron deficiency in rats is associated with increased cortico-striatal glutamatergic transmission. The second goal will be validating our model by demonstrating the ability of drugs already known to be efficient in WED/RLS patients to revert the changes induced by iron deficiency on cortico-striatal neurotransmission in rats. The model would then be used to screen new compounds that could potentially be potent modulators of cortico-striatal neurotransmission.  

Donations Support the Success of the WED Research Grant Program

Thanks to the generous donations from the WED/RLS community, the Foundation has funded more than $1.4 million in competitive research grants for the study of Willis-Ekbom disease since 1997. Every donation makes a real difference in our understanding of the disease. Consider making a donation to the WED Foundation research program today! 

Click here to view our WED Research Grant recipients. 


To the extent that basic studies directly contribute to the development of new curative agents, we are willing to support them, especially if the resulting data can be used to apply for government funding.  That said, it should be clear that we are anxious to build a bench-to-bedside research portfolio:

  • We need an animal model of WED/RLS with good face validity and predictive value.  Such a model would allow us to test
    drug candidates or understand the cause (and potentially mitigate) augmentation
  • We need well-defined and validated drug targets, and assays that can be used to screen small molecule libraries or characterize therapeutic antibodies
  • We need grantees who are willing to use the screens described above to discover "hits" and refine them into clinical lead compounds
  • We need objective state and trait markers for WED/RLS
  • Since WED/RLS is a 24/7 disease that affects multiple body systems, we need treatments that will improve symptoms other than restlessness.

Grantees need not be members of academic institutions.  Scientists in the biotechnology industry are encouraged to apply for money that will allow them to seed relevant projects and obtain SBIR grants if necessary.  Multi-institutional collaborations are encouraged.  We will award up to two $35,000 grants in 2015.  2015 Grant proposals are currently under review.