U of Manitoba researcher wins Barancik Prize for MS research

The prize recognizes, promotes research that impacts new treatment development

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by Mary Chapman |

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University of Manitoba neurologist and investigator Ruth Ann Marrie has won the National Multiple Sclerosis Society‘s (NMSS) Barancik Prize for Innovation in MS Research for her landmark discoveries in multiple sclerosis (MS).

Now in its 10th year, the prize recognizes and promotes innovation and originality in MS-related research that may impact the development of new MS treatments and cures, as well as scientific accomplishments that indicate future leadership in MS.

Marrie’s work also continues to contribute to the organization’s Pathways to Cures Roadmap, which is charting how the most promising studies can stop MS, restore lost function, and end the disease through prevention. She also has helped advance personalized medicine as a way to halt and prevent the disease.

“Dr. Marrie brings her perspective as a neurologist to ask research questions that are very relevant to improving people’s quality of life and providing answers that will increase our ability to stop and even prevent MS in the future,” said Bruce Bebo, PhD, NMSS executive vice president of research programs, in a NMSS press release. “She is also incredibly generous and very effective as a volunteer who provides critical leadership to MS research initiatives on a global scale.”

Marrie, MD, PhD, is a professor and the Waugh Family Chair in Multiple Sclerosis at the university’s Max Rady College of Medicine, and an adjunct scientist at the Manitoba Centre for Health Policy.

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Her research looks at understanding how life experiences and exposures can affect the disease’s onset and progression. Factors such as adverse childhood experiences, coexisting conditions (comorbidities), social environments, and health behaviors could provide new avenues for personalized ways to prevent or stop MS.

Marrie’s research has also shown that comorbidities, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, or heart disease, can worsen MS severity. This opens up the possibility of reducing MS’s impact by addressing other health conditions.

Since her 2010 report on the subject, Marrie and her research team have shown that comorbidities can affect all aspects of MS, including diagnosis, healthcare utilization, relapse rates, and outcomes.

Marrie also contributed to the discovery of a prodromal period in MS. With a landmark paper in 2012, she and her team showed that the frequency of doctor visits by patients rose during the five years before the onset of symptoms. As a result, researchers are studying whether interventions during these early, unspecific symptoms can impede developing full-blown MS.

Marrie has also played a key role in NMSS’s MS Prevalence Initiative, which showed that nearly 1 million people in the U.S. have MS, over two times more than previously estimated.

She is also vice chair of the Scientific Steering Committee for the International Progressive MS Alliance and scientific director of the North American Research Committee on Multiple Sclerosis (NARCOMS) Registry.