National MS Experts To Address U Brain Institute Symposium

National MS Experts To Address U Brain Institute Symposium

Mar 31, 2008 11:00 AM

SALT LAKE CITY—Multiple sclerosis (MS) researchers ranging from pharmacologists to neuroscientists will have money on their minds when they meet at the University of Utah for the BrainConnect Accelerating Multiple Sclerosis Research symposium on Thursday, April 3.

Of course, the money they’re interested in is research funding to help end the disease that affects approximately 400,000 Americans and an estimated 2.5 million people worldwide. Sponsored by the University of Utah Brain Institute and the University’s Clinical Neurosciences Center, the symposium takes place from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the George and Dolores Eccles Institute of Human Genetics first-floor auditorium. Both the conference and a reception following are open to the public.

The symposium’s speakers include Patricia O’Looney, Ph.D., vice president of biomedical research for the National MS Society; Timothy Coetzee, Ph.D., executive director of Fast Forward, a National MS Society initiative to speed up drug development through partnerships with university researchers, and Art Mellor, executive director of the Accelerated Cure Project, a nonprofit dedicated to curing MS by finding its root causes.

As federal government grants have become harder to secure, researchers must avail themselves of every opportunity to find funding, according to Thomas N. Parks, Ph.D., Brain Institute executive director and the University’s interim vice president for research.

“Our interdisciplinary research teams focus on a range of brain disorders, from multiple sclerosis to Alzheimer’s and autism spectrum disorders,” Parks said. “BrainConnect symposia deliver funding ideas directly to the busy researchers on our teams, opening new opportunities to support research that makes a difference.

O’Looney will discuss grants with collaborative MS research centers and the National MS Society’s 2010 Initiative (Nervous System Repair Project, Pediatric MS Centers of Excellence, the Sonya Slifka MS Longitudinal Study, and the MS Legion Project). She’ll also give an overview of other research and training grants and fellowships for both scientists and physicians.

Coetzee will speak about translational research—bringing findings from basic science research to patients—and Fast Forward’s business model to do that in a timelier manner.

Mellor will share his knowledge on how patient-run, goal-oriented nonprofits, such as his, are reshaping disease-focused research in universities and the pharmaceutical industry.

BrainConnect provides an important exchange of ideas and knowledge to bring basic research to patient care faster, according to Stefan M. Pulst, M.D., DrMed, professor and chair of the University’s Department of Neurology and co-chair of the Clinical Neurosciences Center.

“In the translational neurosciences, multiple sclerosis research has forged a path from molecular discoveries to clinical trials in a relatively short time,” Pulst said. “The University of Utah has been intimately involved in the progress in MS research and treatment. Interdisciplinary conferences such as this allow researchers, clinicians, and other experts to share knowledge and ideas that are critical in continuing the advances against this devastating disease."

Annette Royle, president of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society Utah Chapter, said partnering with local researchers is a fundamental component in the Society’s goal to rid the world of MS.

“Our relationship with the Brain Institute is a key community partnership,” Royle said. “We have a ground-level connection to people with MS, as well as funding for research, while the Brain Institute unites local researchers who shape future treatments and therapies.

The National MS Society has awarded grants to several U of U researchers, and recently announced that Ikuo Tsunoda, M.D., Ph.D., research assistant professor of pathology, will receive $44,000 dollars to study whether a compound found in red wine can reduce MS-caused nerve damage.

Ultimately, the Brain Institute wants to quicken the pace of MS research, and that's why the institute is bringing leaders from organizations such as the National MS Society to Utah for the BrainConnect MS symposium, according to Amy Mozdy, Ph.D., interdisciplinary research manager.

“We want to put our teams in the national spotlight. We're inviting national leaders in different disease areas to get to know us and share their bird's-eye views of where we should go with the strengths we've got,” Mozdy said. “We are connecting our interdisciplinary research team in multiple sclerosis with authoritative partners and avant-garde funding opportunities.”

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Media Contacts

Jennifer Logan
University of Utah Brain Insitute
Phone: (801) 556-2936
Phil Sahm
U of U Public Affairs
Phone: (801) 581-7387

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