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National MS Society Mourns Passing of Staff Member Dr. Patricia O’Looney, Vice President of Biomedical Research

February 19, 2013

Patricia A. O’Looney, PhD, passed away on February 16, 2013 after a long illness.  As a member of the National MS Society’s Research Programs Department for nearly 25 years, Dr. O’Looney helped drive forward many significant research funding programs and initiatives that have improved the lives of people affected by MS.

As Vice President of Biomedical Research, Dr. O'Looney oversaw the administration of a large portion of the Society’s research portfolio and provided leadership in expanding many research initiatives. Dr. O’Looney led a task force on gender differences in MS, resulting in a scientific strategy article and funding initiative that galvanized the field and led directly to the first large clinical trial of a sex hormone to treat women with MS. She also developed the Society’s Collaborative MS Research Center Awards that serve as incubators of new talent and innovation, encouraging collaborations across scientific disciplines.

Dr. O’Looney also enhanced the Society’s fellowship programs, designed to attract, encourage and train the most promising talent in MS research and care. Under her leadership the Society launched the Sylvia Lawry Physician Fellowship, which trains doctors in designing and conducting MS clinical trials. She was also pivotal in establishing the Tykeson Fellowship Conference, which brings together funded fellows with seasoned researchers to enhance collaborations and help retain multiple sclerosis as a career focus.

Dr. O’Looney was a well-known and much appreciated public face of the Society’s research programs, giving talks about MS research developments and strategies to the MS community and the media.

“Patricia will be remembered by friends and colleagues for her cheerful demeanor, her generous mentorship to research applicants, and her unstinting willingness to take on new challenges to forward MS research efforts,” commented Cyndi Zagieboylo, the Society’s Chief Executive Officer. “We are deeply grateful for her abiding commitment to the MS movement.”

Dr. O’Looney’s contributions toward moving us closer to a world free of MS will long be remembered and appreciated by all who knew and worked with her.  To honor her substantial role in forwarding MS research and her particular interest in nurturing the careers of postdoctoral research fellows, the keynote lecture at National MS Society’s upcoming Tykeson Fellowship Conference will be named “The Patricia A. O’Looney Memorial Lecture.”

Dr. O’Looney held a bachelor’s degree in Molecular Biology from Regis College, Weston, MA, and a Master’s and Ph.D. in Medical Biochemistry from the George Washington University Medical School in Washington, D.C.  After completing her postdoctoral training, Dr. O’Looney held a dual faculty appointment in the departments of Medicine and Biochemistry at George Washington, where she conducted research studies in lipoprotein metabolism in autoimmune diseases.  She received a New Investigator Research Award from the National Institutes of Health and was the author of several publications in scientific/medical journals.

Dr. O’Looney was a member of the New York Academy of Sciences and the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and listed in several editions of Who's Who of American Women, Who's Who of Men and Women in Science, Who's Who in Medicine & Healthcare, and Who's Who in the East.

Funeral services will be held on Saturday February 23 at 11 am in Our Lady of Assumption Church, 545 Stratfield Road, Fairfield, CT.  Interment will follow at St. Michael's Cemetery in Stratford.  Individuals may pay their respects between 4 and 8 pm on Friday February 22 at the Redgate-Hennessy Funeral Home, Main Street and Gorham Place, Trumbull, CT.  Condolences may be sent online at www.redgatehennessy.com. Dr. O’Looney’s family has requested that contributions in her memory be made to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, 733 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10017.

For additional questions about MS,  Dr. O’Looney’s role in moving us closer to a world free of MS, and the keynote lecture being named in her honor, please contact Arney Rosenblat at arney.rosenblat@nmss.org.

About Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis is an unpredictable, often disabling disease of the central nervous system that disrupts the flow of information within the brain, and between the brain and body. Symptoms range from numbness and tingling to blindness and paralysis. 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. Most people with MS are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50, with at least two to three times more women than men being diagnosed with the disease. MS affects more than 2.3 million people worldwide.

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