Professor Stephen Hauser wins prestigious international award for research in multiple sclerosis

The Multiple Sclerosis International Federation is delighted to announce that Professor Stephen L. Hauser, MD, is the 2013 winner of the Charcot award in recognition of his pioneering studies in MS genetic susceptibility and role in translating immunologic findings into clinical trials. The prime focus of the biennial Charcot Award is to acknowledge a lifetime achievement in research into the treatment and understanding of MS.

Stephen HauserProfessor Hauser was selected by an international panel of distinguished clinicians and scientists from MSIF’s International Medical and Scientific Board, chaired by Prof Alan Thompson.

Professor Alan Thompson says “Professor Hauser is an inspirational leader and role model for academic neurology and MS in particular. His personal contribution to the field of MS has been extraordinary both in moving forward our understanding of the genetic contribution to the causation of the condition and the development of effective treatments. He is a truly deserving recipient of this prestigious award and I offer my heartfelt congratulations”.

Professor Stephen Hauser is an international leader in MS research and for more than two decades has led the systematic efforts to identify genes that determine susceptibility to multiple sclerosis. It was these efforts that led to the identification of specific genes of the HLA system (a group of genes that play an important role in many aspects of immunity) linked to MS. He was a founding member of the International Multiple Sclerosis Genetics Consortium in 2002, which helped identify the first two non-HLA genes involved in susceptibility to multiple sclerosis, IL-2Rα and IL-7R α (CD127). Since then, more than 50 common non-HLA risk alleles have been identified, and the finding that the overwhelming majority is associated with the immune system illuminates the dominant role for immunity-related genes as determinants of inherited risk for MS. His laboratory has also published the complete genome sequences and epigenome of twins discordant for multiple sclerosis.

In the United States, Professor Hauser established and has since maintained the first national DNA repository for multiple sclerosis, making available samples from well-characterized individuals for investigators worldwide.

Professor Hauser also worked on the role of B cells and the antibodies they produce in the pathogenesis of multiple sclerosis. The findings from these studies were translated into a new therapy for multiple sclerosis, using the anti-CD20 monoclonal antibody rituximab to deplete B cells. He led a large clinical trial evaluating rituximab, and the results published in 2008 demonstrated robust efficacy in relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis. Phase III trials with the humanized antibody ocrelizumab are currently underway.

While Prof Hauser has made outstanding contributions to the clinical science of human demyelinating disease, his larger impact on neuroscience and medicine has also been exceptional and far reaching. He is a past president of the American Neurological Association, has been an editor of several prestigious journals, notably the Annals of Neurology. For more than two decades, he has led the Department of Neurology at the University of California San Francisco, and in this role has trained and inspired a generation of younger neurologists. Professor Hauser has chaired numerous committees of the Institute of Medicine (IOM) and is currently serving on the Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues, charged with advising President Barack Obama on issues that may emerge from advances in biomedicine and related areas of science and technology.

On hearing the news of the award, Prof Hauser said “I am deeply honoured, and I would like to extend my gratitude to the many patients who participate in our research, and to my colleagues here at UCSF and around the world whose contributions have vastly increased our understanding of MS. It is our collective effort that provides real hope for a future without this terrible disease.”

The £1500 prize will be presented to Professor Hauser at the annual European Committee for Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis (ECTRIMS) meeting to be held in Copenhagen later this year, where he will deliver the Charcot lecture.