Charcot Award - Catherine Lubetzki

We are delighted to announce that Professor Catherine Lubetzki, seminal in her field, is the 2019 winner of the Charcot Award.

Professor Catherine Lubetzki, who is dedicated to pushing the boundaries of multiple sclerosis (MS) research, is being celebrated for her significant contribution to understanding the disease processes with a specific and unique focus on demyelination and remyelination. She has, over the course of her 30 year career to date published many groundbreaking papers in this field, and work has led to clinical trials for remyelinating agents.

Demystifying myelination and repair mechanisms

Professor Lubetzki is professor of Neurology at the Sorbonne University and head of the department of neurological diseases in Salpêtrière Hospital. She coordinates the Salpêtrière Multiple Sclerosis clinical research centre. Her research focuses on the pathophysiology of MS, notably uncovering the interactions between myelin and axons, showing that the electrical activity of axons induces myelin formation, and that positive or negative axonal signaling can impact the repair mechanism.

Her studies have also elucidated several new molecules that play an important role in myelination, such as those that can attract or repel myelination cells towards lesions; this has led to the development of new therapeutic strategies. More recently, Professor Lubetzki’s research has demonstrated new insights into the anatomy and physiology of neurons, and how this impacts their ability to conduct electrical impulses during development and repair.

A leading figure in the world of MS research

Professor Lubetzki has more than 250 publications to her name and has led, served on, and even founded many esteemed national and international scientific and funding boards and committees. She serves on the Executive Committee of MSIF’s International Medical and Scientific Board, has been on the Medical and Scientific Board of the French MS Association for Research (ARSEP) for nine years and works closely with the Ligue française contre la sclérose en plaques.

Professor Lubetzki is a member of the International Progressive MS Alliance Scientific Steering Committee and also leads a research group at the Brain and Spinal Cord Institute (ICM). She is a founding member of the French Brain Council, and is on the Executive Committee for ECTRIMS, The European Committee for Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis.

Paving the way for women and junior researchers

She is a highly respected scientist in the field of MS treatment and is also a role model for women in science and a superb mentor to junior researchers, something recognised by her peers around the world. Professor Lubetzki was the second female professor of neurology across France, and the first woman to head up her neurology department. She is a strong advocate of encouraging more women into neurology. While the number of women in the field is increasing, she says this still needs to be greatly improved.

Professor Lubetzki with her research team at the Brain and Spinal Cord Institute (ICM)

Where it all began

When reflecting on what piqued her interest in the field of MS, Professor Lubetzki recalls her time as a young medical student on residency, where she had a series of placements in Paris. Students with names at the start of the alphabet were given first pick in choosing their placements so by the time it got to ‘L’ for Lubetzki, she had very little say in where she went.

After being disappointed by an earlier placement, Professor Lubetzki complained to her professor about the limited choice, who strongly recommended that she try neurosurgery. Despite her initial reservations, she took the advice and found herself being moved again and again by the powerful stories of the young people with MS who she met and worked with. It was this early experience and direct contact with people living with the disease that informed her decision to follow a path focused on MS.

Professor Lubetzki said:

‘It is such an honour to be chosen for the Charcot Award, which I take with humility and great appreciation. I believe that this Award recognises my combined focus on both clinical practice and basic science research. I hope that this recognition will encourage junior clinician-scientists in the field of repair in multiple sclerosis.’

Praise from peers

Professor Xavier Montalban, Chair of the MS International Federation’s International and Medical Scientific Board, said:

‘Professor Lubetzki is an extraordinary neurologist, who has made significant contributions to the field of MS research. Her pioneering work has transformed our understanding of repair mechanisms in MS, paving the way for MS researchers around the world. I am delighted to see her dedication, vision and leadership recognised with this richly deserved Award.’

Jean Frédéric de Leusse, President of the Fondation ARSEP, said:

‘It is with great joy that the Foundation has learnt of Professor Catherine Lubetzki, eminent neurologist and member of our Scientific Committee, being awarded MSIF’s Charcot Award. It is a fitting recognition for an exceptional career dedicated to gaining a better understanding of and treatment for MS. The ARSEP Foundation is proud and delighted to send Professor Lubetzki – who we are honoured to count as one of our most valued members – the warmest congratulations.’

Olivier Heinzlef, President of the Ligue française contre la sclérose en plaques (LFSEP), said:

‘The LFSEP sends its congratulations to Professor Catherine Lubetzki in being awarded the Charcot Award, but we would also like to thank her for all the work she has done in France in helping people with MS through her research and professional practice as a neurologist.’

The award will be presented to Professor Lubetzki during the European Committee for Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis (ECTRIMS) meeting in Stockholm (11-13 September 2019) where she will give the biennial Charcot Lecture.

Previous winners of the Charcot Award include Professor Per Soelberg Sørensen, Professor Giancarlo Comi, Prof Stephen Hauser, Professor Lawrence Steinman, Professor John Prineas, Professor Alastair Compston, Professor Ian McDonald, Professor Donald Paty, Professor John Kurtzke, Dr Henry McFarland and Professor Hans Lassmann.

Find out more about the Charcot Award here.