May 4, 2007—Professor Howard L. Weiner, MD, of Harvard Medical School , Boston , has been chosen by a committee of his peers to receive the National MS Society/American Academy of
Neurology's 2007 John Dystel Prize for Multiple Sclerosis Research. Dr. Weiner is being honored for his contributions toward understanding the development of the immune attack in MS, translating these findings into MS treatments, and for advancing clinical care of people with this disease.
Dr. Weiner's Contributions: Dr. Weiner's studies on the immunology of MS have helped form the basis for our understanding of immune mechanisms and therapy. He was the first to show that aggressive immunosuppressive therapy of MS was beneficial, in a study published in The New England Journal of Medicine (1983 Jan 27;308:173-80). This study paved the way for the use of aggressive immune-modulating therapies for MS such as mitoxantrone, and experimental therapies such as bone marrow transplant and rituximab.
Dr. Weiner is a pioneer in investigating “oral tolerance” for MS, a strategy that attempts to induce the immune system to ignore myelin proteins that might trigger the immune attack, by administering those same proteins via oral treatment. This approach is built on the fact that the gut neutralizes potential immune responses to eaten proteins, and attempts to confer that tolerance through “bystander suppression” to the central nervous system.
Dr. Weiner first described the importance of this concept of “bystander suppression” in MS in a seminal paper 16 years ago ( The Journal of Experimental Medicine 1991 Oct 1;174(4):791-8). This is an important concept in MS research, as the immune response involves proteins that target a variety of myelin molecules. Although early trials of oral myelin were not successful, Dr. Weiner recently published exciting findings on a novel approach in which his team administered an oral immune-modulating therapy that suppressed MS-like disease in mice ( Nature Medicine 2006 Jun;12(6):627-35).
Dr. Weiner continues to make inroads into our understanding of the immune attack, recently describing how intricate interactions among immune messenger proteins can determine whether inflammatory or regulatory T cells (that can turn off the attack) are induced ( Nature 2006 May 11;441:235-8) as well as detailing an increasing role for the innate immune system and dendritic cells in the immune response in MS ( Journal of Immunology 2006 Sept 15;177(6):4196-202).
In the clinical arena, Dr. Weiner founded the Partners MS Center at Brigham and Women's Hospital , one of the first to combine clinical care with cutting-edge clinical research. The center is dedicated to the care of people with MS, while faculty members are engaged in imaging, immunologic and therapeutic studies as well. Dr. Weiner established the Comprehensive Longitudinal Investigation of MS (CLIMB) study five years ago. His team is following 1000 people with MS ( 760 have been enrolled as of this writing) from disease onset using yearly imaging, clinical, immunologic, cognitive and quality of life measures.
Chief among Dr. Weiner's contributions to MS research are the scores of men and women he has trained who are now conducting MS research and patient care around the world and are leaders themselves in this field. They include Stephen Hauser, MD (University of California, San Francisco), and at Harvard, David Hafler, MD, Vijay Kuchroo, DVM, PhD, and Samia Khoury, MD.
Dr. Weiner has lent his expertise to chair and serve as a member of numerous peer review committees, international neuroimmunology meeting committees, and advisory councils, including the National MS Society's Research Programs Advisory Committee and the Advisory Council of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease of the NIH. Locally, Dr. Weiner serves as a trustee on the National MS Society Central New England chapter's Board of Directors. Dr. Weiner has authored more than 350 publications in medical journals and book chapters on neuroimmunology and is author of Curing MS (Crown).
The National MS Society and the Academy are pleased to honor Dr. Howard Weiner with the 2007 John Dystel Prize for Multiple Sclerosis Research, in recognition of his major achievements in translational science, innovative therapy, and clinical care.
The Prize: The $15,000 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 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), and William Sibley (2006).
Biographical Sketch: Dr. Weiner earned his medical degree from the University of Colorado School of Medicine, where he was awarded the Phi Delta Epsilon Award for Academic Excellence and the Merck Award in Medicine. He completed an internship in medicine at Tel Hashomer Hospital in Israel , residencies in medicine at Beth Israel Hospital in Boston and in neurology at the Longwood Area Neurology Program, and a clinical fellowship in neurology at Harvard Medical School . In 1985, Dr. Weiner earned the Robert L. Kroc Chair in Neurology for MS Research, awarded by the Kroc Foundation. He is Robert L. Kroc Processor of Neurology at Harvard and a Senior Neurologist and Director of the Partners MS Center at Brigham & Women's Hospital, Boston .
- Research Programs Department
- The John Dystel Prize For Multiple Sclerosis Research and other awards
- MS Research