UCL Neurologist Wins 2021 Charcot Award for Efforts in MS Research

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by Margarida Maia, PhD |

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Charcot Award 2021

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Alan Thompson, dean of the Faculty of Brain Sciences at University College London (UCL), has won the 2021 Charcot Award, a prize given once every two years for a lifetime of achievement in research into the understanding and treatment of multiple sclerosis (MS).

“The Charcot Award is viewed by the MS community as the ultimate accolade for a lifetime’s work, and I’m absolutely delighted to be the 2021 recipient,” Thompson said in a press release.

As part of this honor, Thompson will also give the Charcot Lecture at the virtual European Committee of Treatment and Research in MS (ECTRIMS) meeting, set for Oct. 13–15.

Thomson holds the Garfield Weston chair of neurology and neurorehabilitation at UCL, is a chair of the Neuroscience Programme for the UCL Partners Academic Health Science Centre, is an emeritus senior investigator at the National Institute for Health Research, chairs the Scientific Steering Committee of the International Progressive MS Alliance, and is an honorary consultant neurologist at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery in London.

His 40-year career included work into many areas of MS research and clinical care, with a particular focus on progressive disease. Since its 2013 inception, he has chaired the Scientific Steering Committee of the International Progressive MS Alliance.

“Professor Alan Thompson has significant expertise in the diagnosis, evaluation, monitoring, and management of the progressive forms of MS,” the release states. “He has focused on the pathological mechanisms that underpin neurological disability, and on recovery through neurorehabilitation.”

Thomson has also been a key contributor to the McDonald diagnostic criteria committee since 2001, and was co-chair for the group responsible for the criteria’s 2018 update.

He performed some of the first serial magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) studies into the natural history of MS, or how the disease naturally progresses over time, across its recognized types, and he developed widely used MRI protocols that help in assessing patient response to treatments.

“It’s a fantastic acknowledgment of the MS work in which I’ve been involved since the early 80s,” Thompson said. “This award particularly acknowledges all the wonderful people who have encouraged, guided, and supported me over those four decades … not to mention all those affected by MS who have engaged so willingly and enthusiastically in my research whenever asked.”

The Charcot Award, which carries a £1,500 (about $2,000) prize, is given by the MS International Federation (MSIF), a global network of MS organizations. It also covers the costs of the winner’s travel, accommodation, and expenses to attend the ECTRIMS meeting up to £5,000.

“Professor Thompson is exceptionally deserving of the Charcot Award,” said Brenda Banwell, MD, chair of the MSIF International Medical and Scientific Board. “He has been a pivotal advocate for research in progressive forms of MS, and is an unfailing champion for neurorehabilitation. He has led countless committees, always managing to achieve consensus through his leadership, vision, and sense of humor.

“Alan is a consummate clinician, a highly accomplished researcher, a wonderful educator and mentor, and a friend to all of us in the MS community,” she added.

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