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2021 Dystel Prize for MS Research Goes to Prof. Vijay Kuchroo of Harvard for Unraveling the Immune Mechanisms of MS

April 14, 2021

The 2021 John Dystel Prize for Multiple Sclerosis Research goes to Vijay K. Kuchroo, DVM, PhD, the Samuel Wasserstrom Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School, Boston.
  • Professor Kuchroo is a highly innovative scientist who has made outstanding research contributions to our understanding of the underlying immune mechanisms that drive multiple sclerosis.
  • The Dystel Prize is given jointly by the National MS Society and the American Academy of Neurology. It was established by the late Society National Board member Oscar Dystel and his wife, Marion, in honor of their son, John Jay Dystel. Read more about previous Dystel Prize winners.
  • Prof. Kuchroo will receive the award and deliver the Dystel Prize lecture as part of the virtual American Academy of Neurology 2021 Annual Meeting on April 17. 

“Professor Kuchroo’s research lays the groundwork for stopping
the immune resKuchroo-Dystel-(1).jpgponse in its tracks,” said Bruce Bebo, PhD, Executive Vice President of Research for the National MS Society. “This work is crucial to advancing the most promising pathways to MS cures.”
“I am thrilled to receive the Dystel prize for the work we did on multiple sclerosis.  We generated a number of animal models for the disease and these models are used world-over in the laboratories doing MS research.  I launched my career with a pilot grant from the National M.S. society and I am grateful to the society for their continued support,” said Prof. Kuchroo.
Professor Kuchroo is a recognized leader in the study of the immune response that damages the brain and spinal cord in MS. His research has focused on immune “T cells,” and the genes and molecules that regulate these cells activity in MS.
In nominating Prof. Kuchroo for the Dystel Prize, Howard Weiner, MD, (Harvard Medical School), recipient of the 2007 Dystel Prize, said, “Prof. Kuchroo is a pioneer in the field of T cell biology and CNS autoimmunity as it relates to MS. The immune system and autoimmunity are at the heart of MS. His work has had major impact and has opened up pathways that will lead to better treatment and ultimately a cure for MS.”
Prof. Kuchroo has made outstanding research contributions to our understanding of the underlying immune mechanisms that drive MS. Just a few of the many advances that he has contributed to include:

  • Defining the role of specific proteins in nerve-insulating myelin as targets driving the immune response. He developed a mouse model showing that myelin oligodendrocyte glycoprotein triggered inflammation of the optic nerve, often the first symptom of MS.
  • Identifying “TIM-3,” a molecule on the surface of T cells that can distinguish inflammatory cells from T cells that can regulate inflammation. He identified the whole TIM family of genes, which have a very important role in regulating immune responses. 
  • Defining distinct steps in how T cells that drive the immune response are activated and the specific immune messenger proteins involved, providing targets for the development of immune-modulating therapies. This was translated into studies in people with MS, under his guidance.
  • Advancing understanding of the role of immune B cells in MS. He found a molecule on B cells that regulates tissue inflammation. These observations are now being investigated in people with MS. 
About the Prize: The Dystel Prize is given jointly by the National MS Society and the American Academy of Neurology. The late Society National Board member Oscar Dystel and his late wife, Marion, established the Prize in 1994 in honor of their son, John Jay Dystel, an attorney whose promising career was cut short by progressive disability from MS. (John died of complications of the disease in June 2003.) Previous winners of the Prize are Drs. Donald Paty (1995), Cedric Raine (1996), John Kurtzke (1997), Henry McFarland (1998), W. Ian McDonald (1999), Kenneth Johnson (2000), John Prineas (2001), Stephen Waxman (2002), Bruce Trapp (2003), Lawrence Steinman (2004), Jack Antel (2005), William Sibley (2006), Howard Weiner (2007), Stephen Hauser (2008), David Miller (2009), David Hafler (2010), Brian Weinshenker (2011), Richard Ransohoff (2012), George Ebers (2013), Barry Arnason (2014), Alastair Compston (2015), Claudia Lucchinetti (2016), Alan Thompson (2017), Frederik Barkhof (2018), Anne Cross (2019), and Ian Duncan (2020). Read more about other Dystel Prize winners.
Biography: Vijay Kuchroo, DVM, PhD, is the Samuel L. Wasserstrom Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School, Senior Scientist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and Co-director of the Center for Infection and Immunity, Brigham Research Institute, Boston. He is also a member of the Broad Institute, and a participant in a Klarman Cell Observatory project that focuses on T cell differentiation. He is the founding director of the Evergrande Center for Immunologic Diseases at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Prof. Kuchroo earned his degree in Veterinary Medicine from the College of Veterinary Medicine in Hisar, India, and then earned a PhD in pathology at the University of Queensland in Brisbane Australia. He is the recipient of the Fred Z. Eager Research Prize, the Javits Neuroscience Award by the National Institutes of Health, the Ranbaxy Prize in Medical Research, the Nobel Laureate Peter Doherty Lecture/Prize, and was named Distinguished Eberly Lecturer. He has served the MS community as a volunteer peer reviewer for the National MS Society and other agencies, and has shared his knowledge by mentoring many young investigators.

About Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis is an unpredictable, often disabling disease of the central nervous system. Symptoms range from numbness and tingling to blindness and paralysis, and there is currently no cure for MS. The progress, severity and specific symptoms of MS in any one person cannot yet be predicted, but advances in research and treatment are leading to better understanding and moving us closer to a world free of MS. An estimated 1 million people live with MS in the United States. Most people with MS are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50, and it affects women three times more than men.


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