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National MS Society Mourns Passing of Renowned MS Researcher and Society Advisor Dr. Marie Filbin

January 18, 2014

Marie T. Filbin, BSc, PhD, an internationally renowned scientist and beloved professor at Hunter College, City University of New York, passed away on January 15, 2014 after a long illness.

A deeply committed MS researcher, Dr. Filbin spearheaded the National MS Society’s early focus on repairing the nervous system to restore function in people with MS. In 2004, she led the Society’s Task Force on Nervous System Repair, which analyzed the current state of myelin and nerve repair efforts. The Task Force’s recommendations launched the Society’s $15.6 million Nervous System Repair and Protection Initiative. The four collaborating teams of scientists laid the groundwork for clinical trials ongoing today, aimed at protecting and reversing neurological damage and restoring function in people with MS.

Dr. Filbin had a keen interest in discovering how nervous system tissues can be repaired in multiple sclerosis and spinal cord injury.  She was the first to identify a specific molecule embedded in the myelin coating around nerve fibers, called “MAG,” which actually inhibits nerve regeneration.  Much of her team’s work focused on finding ways to neutralize this and other inhibitors so that the body’s natural powers of regeneration can proceed.

Dr. Filbin earned her undergraduate and doctoral degrees in biochemistry at the University of Bath in England.  She did postdoctoral research fellowships at the University of Maryland and at Johns Hopkins Medical School, focusing on myelin assembly. She held a faculty position at Johns Hopkins for four years before moving to Hunter College in 1990.  Dr. Filbin became Professor of Biological Sciences in 1995, and in 1997 became the Marie L. Hesselbach Chair in Biology there.  In 1998 she was named Distinguished Professor of the City University of New York, and in 2000 also became Director of the Specialized Neuroscience Research Program.

Dr. Filbin earned numerous honors and awards, including the Javits Investigator Award from NIH, the Ameritec Prize for a cure for paralysis and the Society’s 1998 Norman Cohn award for the highest-scoring grant.  She served as a consultant, advisor and peer reviewer to many organizations and agencies, including an NIH study section and valued member of the National MS Society’s senior Research Programs Advisory Committee.

“Dr. Filbin was a visionary scientist with deep commitment to solving the challenges of repairing the nervous system in MS,” commented Dr. Tim Coetzee, Chief Advocacy, Services and Research Officer.  “Marie was champion for people with MS and will be sorely missed.”

A tireless worker and advocate for young scientists, Dr. Filbin also sat on the editorial boards of the Journal of Neuroscience, Journal of Comparative Neurology and Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience, and served as a reviewer for some of the top science journals including Nature, Science, Neuron, Cell, and the Journal of Cell Biology. She was also the Founder and President of the New York Friends of Myelin Club.

Read a tribute to Dr. Filbin by Hunter College.

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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