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Dr. Stephen Hauser, Pioneer in MS Genetics, Awarded 2008 John Dystel Prize

Apr 15, 2008

Dr. Stephen Hauser, Pioneer in MS Genetics, Awarded 2008 John Dystel Prize

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Professor Stephen L. Hauser, MD, an international leader in MS research, has been chosen by a committee of his peers to receive the National MS Society/American Academy ofNeurology’s 2008 John Dystel Prize for Multiple Sclerosis Research. Dr. Hauser (of the University of California, San Francisco) is being honored for his pioneering studies on genetic susceptibility to MS, and for his role in translating findings on the role of immune B cells in MS into clinical trials. The $15,000 prize is being presented at this week’s annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology in Chicago.

Dr. Hauser’s Contributions

Genetics of MS: Dr. Stephen Hauser was among the first MS researchers in the United States to recognize the need for studies to understand genetic influences that make people susceptible to developing MS. With funding from the National MS Society, he established a DNA “bank” to carefully gather and store a large number of blood samples (from which DNA is derived) from people with MS and their family members. This vital resource is shared with researchers around the world studying MS susceptibility.

Dr. Hauser has been at the forefront in organizing national and international collaborative genetics studies, to accomplish the goal of mapping all the genes underlying susceptibility to MS, as well influencing disease course and even responses to therapy. These efforts led to the identification of specific HLA genes (immune system genes) linked to MS.

Dr. Hauser’s collaborative approach to the search for MS genes, and his group’s efforts in growing the MS DNA bank, eased the formation of the International MS Genetics Consortium (IMSGC). This group of MS genetics researchers from around the world has broken new ground, recently completing the largest replicated whole genome scan (scan of all the genes in the body) for MS to date and identifying two new genetic variations associated with MS (The New England Journal of Medicine2007 Aug 30;357[9]:851-62). The findings point to potential mechanisms underlying the disease and present possible new targets for designing better therapies to stop the immune attack in MS.

Developing New Therapy: Long interested in the immune activity that underlies MS, Dr. Hauser also has brought his expertise to bear on the question of immune B cells, a subject of increasing interest in MS research. He and colleagues published seminal findings associating antibodies (proteins produced by B cells) with damage to the myelin that insulates nerve fibers in people with MS (Nature Medicine1999 Feb;5[2]:170-5).

Dr. Hauser translated those lab findings to the clinic: as the principal investigator of a clinical trial of rituximab (Rituxan®, Genentech and Biogen Idec), a drug that depletes B cells. Dr. Hauser’s team has reported that one course of this intravenous drug reduced disease activity and relapses for 48 weeks in people with relapsing-remitting MS, a course of MS characterized by clearly defined flare-ups followed by partial or complete recovery periods (The New England Journal of Medicine2008 Feb 14;358[7]:676-88). Aclinical trialof rituximab in 439 people with primary-progressive MS recently reported negative results, although data analysis is ongoing.

Sharing Knowledge: Dr. Hauser’s contributions to MS research are amplified by the students and junior faculty he has mentored. These men and women are now doing their own part to move us closer to a world free of MS, including: Jorge Oksenberg, Ph.D. a former NMSS postdoctoral fellow; Scott Zamvil, M.D, Ph.D., a former Harry Weaver Neuroscience Scholar of the National MS Society; Emmanuelle Waubant, MD, PhD, director of the UCSF Regional Pediatric MS Center; Lisa F. Barcellos, PhD, a fellow member of the IMSGC who also served on the Society’s MS Epidemiology Task Force; and Bruce Cree, MD, PhD, an expert clinical neurologist who was a Sylvia Lawry Physician Fellow of the NMSS.

Dr. Hauser lends his expertise to numerous advisory committees, including serving as chair of the section on neurology and psychiatry of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, and as a member of the Executive Committee of the National MS Society’s National Clinical Advisory Board and as a member of the MS International Federation’s Council. Dr. Hauser was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1997. He also served as President of the American Neurological Association from 2005-2007. Dr. Hauser is editor-in-chief of the prestigious journal,Annals of Neurology. A world-renowned lecturer, he also has authored well over 200 publications in medical journals and book chapters on MS genetics, neurology, and immunology, and has served as editor of 10 books, including several editions ofHarrison’s Principals of Internal Medicine.

The National MS Society and the Academy are pleased to honor Dr. Stephen Hauser with the 2008 John Dystel Prize for Multiple Sclerosis Research, in recognition of his major achievements in MS genetic susceptibility and in translating immunologic findings into clinical trials.

The Prize:

The $15,000 Dystel Prize is given jointly by the National MS Society and theAmerican Academy of Neurology, and is funded through the Society’s John Dystel Multiple Sclerosis Research Fund. Society Honorary Life National Board of Directors member Oscar Dystel and his late wife Marion established this fund in 1994 in honor of their son John Jay Dystel, an attorney whose promising career was cut short by progressive disability from MS. (John died of complications of the disease in June 2003.)

Previous winners of the Prize are Drs. Donald Paty (1995), Cedric Raine (1996), John Kurtzke (1997), Henry McFarland (1998), W. Ian McDonald (1999), Kenneth Johnson (2000), John Prineas (2001), Stephen Waxman (2002), Bruce Trapp (2003), Lawrence Steinman (2004), Jack Antel (2005), William Sibley (2006) and Howard Weiner (2007).

Biographical Sketch:

Dr. Hauser is a graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and of Harvard Medical School. He completed an internship and residency in medicine at The New York Hospital, Cornell Medical Center, New York, and a residency in neurology at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. Dr. Hauser completed clinical and research fellowships in neurology at Harvard Medical School. He trained as a postdoctoral fellow and a Harry Weaver Neuroscience Scholar of the National MS Society. In 1992, he became Chair of the Department of Neurology at the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine, initially holding the Betty Anker Fife Chair, and since 2000 the Robert A. Fishman Distinguished Chair.

Rituxan is a registered trademark of Biogen Idec Inc.

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