Tennessee Neurologist to Lead $8.4M MS Research Program at University of Saskatchewan

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by Patricia Silva, PhD |

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Multiple sclerosis research

The University of Saskatchewan‘s incoming Chair in Multiple Sclerosis Clinical Research will have a research endowment worth $8.4 million to help him search for a cure for multiple sclerosis (MS).

The school has recruited Michael Levin, MD, an experienced MS researcher, to lead the program for a seven-year term that will begin in March. He is a neurologist and professor at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, as well as director of the Multiple Sclerosis Center and Laboratory of Viral and Demyelinating Diseases in Memphis, Tennessee.

“This recruitment is an important step forward in the effort to increase MS research and improve clinical care for Saskatchewan people with MS,” Eric Olauson, a member of the Legislative Assembly, said in a press release on behalf of the minister of health. “This fulfills one of the recommendations made by the MS Advisory Panel last February, and helps build momentum for the participation of Saskatchewan people in clinical research.”

Levin has spent his career exploring the causes of MS through research focused on viruses, auto-antibodies, and acquired DNA mutations. He finished a post-doctoral fellowship, with a focus on MS, at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. His internship and residency training were completed at the combined New York Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center-Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center program.

He received his medical degree from Pennsylvania State University.

Levin will lead a team of clinicians and students. University researchers Katherine Knox, MD, who focuses on MS and mobility, and Valerie Verge, PhD, who studies nerve injury and repair mechanisms, will both participate in the program.

“Our team will engage locally in discoveries to directly benefit the people of our province, where an estimated 3,500 to 3,700 residents live with MS, while also helping to train our young clinician researchers,” said Preston Smith, the university’s dean of medicine.

Saskatchewan has one of the world’s highest MS rates.

Steve Shannon, chief executive officer of Saskatoon City Hospital Foundation, said his organization raised $5 million to support the university program “because it will lead and coordinate research here in Saskatchewan.”

In addition to the hospital foundation, the program will receive support from the Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation, the MS Society of Canada, the university’s Centennial Enhancement Chair program and College of Medicine, and Saskatoon Health Region.

“I’ve dedicated most of my adult life to exploring the causes of MS and the care of people with MS and I am grateful and humbled to be named the inaugural chair,” Levin said. “This is a unique opportunity. We will make significant advances in MS by providing world-class care and cutting-edge research, garnering a national and international reputation for excellence.”

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