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More MS news articles for April 2004

Innovative Neuroimmunologist Awarded 2004 Dystel Prize

April 28, 2004
The National Multiple Sclerosis Society

Professor Lawrence Steinman MD, of Stanford Medical Center, has been chosen by a committee of his peers to receive the National MS Society/American Academy of Neurology’s 2004 John Dystel Prize for Multiple Sclerosis Research. Dr. Steinman is being honored for his major contributions to our understanding of MS-like disease models, and for translating these findings to the clinical development of novel therapeutic strategies for MS.

The Prize: The $7,500 Dystel Prize is given jointly by the National MS Society and the American Academy of Neurology, and is funded through the Society’s John Dystel Multiple Sclerosis Research Fund. Society 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 Kurtz (1997), Henry McFarland (1998), W. Ian McDonald (1999), Kenneth Johnson (2000), John Prineas (2001), Stephen Waxman (2002), and Bruce Trapp (2003).

Biographical Sketch: Dr. Steinman earned his medical degree from Harvard University in Boston, where he was awarded a fellowship in chemical neurobiology from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). He completed an internship in surgery and residencies in pediatrics and neurology at Stanford University Hospital, as well as a fellowship in chemical immunology at Weizmann Institute, Rehovot, Israel. Dr. Steinman became a faculty member at Stanford in 1980, where he is now Professor in the Departments of Neurology and Neurological Sciences, Pediatrics, and Genetics, and Chair of the Stanford University Program in Immunology.

Dr. Steinman’s Contributions: Dr. Steinman is an innovator who has contributed much to our understanding of the basic underpinnings of MS, and who has translated his findings to develop therapeutic strategies that are already under study in people with MS. Dr. Steinman and colleagues were among the first to focus on immune “T cells” that were specifically targeted against a major protein in myelin, and were capable of inducing an MS-like disease in mice (Nature, September 26, 1985). These studies led Dr. Steinman to test experimental therapies that could impact this disease pathway, including monoclonal antibodies against specific T-cells and against specific “adhesion” molecules on these T cells (Nature, March 1992) which has led to clinical trials in humans with MS. He pursued studies on “altered peptide ligands” (APLs), in which the T cell responses to myelin may be dampened by altering molecules on T cell docking sites (Nature, January 1996). His success in mouse models has led to their testing in current human clinical trials.

Recently, Dr. Steinman and colleagues have employed sophisticated gene array analyses of MS tissues and have focused on the immune-system protein known as “osteopontin,” which appears to play a crucial role in the immune attack in MS and its progression (Science, November 23, 2001). In this study, partially supported by the Society, Dr. Steinman and colleagues used this technology to sort through hundreds of genes in tissues at once, to determine which genes were influencing an MS-like disease (EAE) in rats. Genes for osteopontin were elevated in active disease, but remained at normal levels in rats protected from EAE. Osteopontin may present a target for future experimental therapies.

Dr. Steinman also has been at the forefront of efforts exploring the potential of customized DNA vaccines for treating MS (Nature Biotechnology, September 2003). Using microarrays in a different fashion, his team studied immune B-cell responses to more than 2,000 myelin protein molecules at once, finding that mice in which B cells reacted to many protein molecules experienced the largest number of relapses. They designed customized DNA vaccines containing “cocktails” of the genetic material that instructs several myelin proteins, to induce maximal immune system “tolerance.” The vaccines reduced relapse rates in the mice and MS clinical trials are planned, based on this work.

Dr. Steinman has published nearly 325 papers or book chapters related to basic and clinical neuroimmunology. He has served as a scientific and medical advisor to the National MS Society, and as a member of the Immunological Sciences Study Section of the NIH. He was Associate Editor of the Journal of Immunology from 1991-1995, and now is Associate Editor of Neurobiology of Disease.

Dr. Steinman has received prestigious awards including the S. Weir Mitchell Award from the American Academy of Neurology; a Teacher-Investigator Award from the NIH; the Senator Jacob Javits Neuroscience Investigator Award from the Congress of the United States and the NIH, and the Dr. Friedrich Sasse Award for Outstanding Contributions in Immunology from the Free University of Berlin. Dr. Steinman has also co-founded, and is an advisor to, several biotech/pharmaceutical companies that are exploring new agents to treat multiple sclerosis and other diseases.

The Society and the Academy are pleased to honor Dr. Steinman with the 2004 John Dystel Prize for Multiple Sclerosis Research, in recognition of his major contributions to our understanding of MS and the development of potential therapeutic strategies. His findings have significantly contributed to our efforts to end the devastating effects of this disease.

Copyright © 2004, The National Multiple Sclerosis Society