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National Multiple Sclerosis Society Awards Dr. Ruth Ann Marrie Barancik Prize for Innovation in MS Research

February 1, 2023

Dr. Ruth Ann MarieRuth Ann Marrie, MD, PhD, a neurologist and researcher at the University of Manitoba, is winner of this year’s Barancik Prize for Innovation in MS Research for her landmark discoveries that deepen understanding of how and when multiple sclerosis evolves. Her work continues to inform Pathways to MS Cures and is paving the way to more personalized medicine to stop and even prevent MS. At this 10th Anniversary of the Prize, Dr. Marrie joins a distinguished group of previous recipients who are driving progress in high priority research questions.  
Dr. Marrie is a Professor of Internal Medicine at the Max Rady College of Medicine, University of Manitoba, where she holds the Waugh Family Chair in Multiple Sclerosis. She is also a Professor in the department of Community Health Sciences, and an Adjunct Scientist at the Manitoba Centre for Health Policy at the University of Manitoba.
“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, Ph.D., Executive Vice President of Research Programs at the National MS Society, which administers the award. “She is also incredibly generous and very effective as a volunteer who provides critical leadership to MS research initiatives on a global scale.”
Dr. Marrie’s research takes a holistic approach to understand how MS affects individuals in the context of their unique lifetime experiences and exposures. These may include adverse childhood experiences, social circumstances, comorbidities (other disorders along with MS), health behaviors, and other factors. Understanding how different factors impact the onset and evolution of MS may offer new avenues for personalized approaches to stopping MS and for finding ways to prevent it.
Among her many contributions:
  • Comorbidities can make MS worse: The impact of comorbidities had not been meaningfully explored in MS before Dr. Marrie began her work. In 2010, she published the first report suggesting that comorbidities such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and high cholesterol could increase disability and its progression in people with MS. Her team has since shown that various comorbidities affect all aspects of MS including time to diagnosis, severity of disability at diagnosis, the use of health care, relapse rates and mortality.
Impact: This work raises the possibility that addressing other health conditions may reduce the impacts of MS as well. Her findings have informed treatment guidelines by the American Academy of  Neurology, the Canadian Network of MS Clinics, and the international MS Brain Health group.​
  • Before MS: Dr. Marrie broke new ground in 2012 with the publication of a landmark paper showing that people with MS increased their use of healthcare (doctor visits) during the five years before their first symptoms of MS occurred. This and additional work by her team led to the recognition that MS has a “prodrome,” an early phase of unspecific symptoms indicating a high risk for future diagnosis of MS.
Impact: Further work to map out the prodrome may enable opportunities to intervene and prevent the development of full-blown MS. 
  • Dr. Marrie is a coauthor of the Pathways to MS Cures Roadmap that outlines the most promising research to stop MS, restore function, and end MS by prevention. She also played a key role in the National MS Society’s MS Prevalence Initiative, in which leading experts developed a feasible estimate of the number of people living with MS in the U.S. They showed that nearly 1 million people are living with MS in the U.S. – more than twice the previous estimate. 
  • Dr. Marrie is generous with her time as a leadership volunteer on a global scale. She is Vice Chair of the Scientific Steering Committee for the International Progressive MS Alliance and Scientific Director of the NARCOMS Registry. She is past Chair of the International Advisory Committee on Clinical Trials in MS and past Chair of the Medical Advisory Committee for the MS Society of Canada.
About the Barancik Prize for Innovation in MS Research: The Barancik Prize seeks to recognize and encourage exceptional innovation and originality in scientific research relevant to multiple sclerosis, with emphasis on impact and potential of the research to lead to pathways for the treatment and cure for MS, and scientific accomplishments that merit recognition as a future leader in MS research. The international prize is administered through the National MS Society and made possible by the generosity of the Charles and Margery Barancik Foundation.   

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.


© 2023 The National Multiple Sclerosis Society is a tax exempt 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. Its Identification Number (EIN) is 13-5661935.