Philip L. De Jager, MD, PhD, Neurologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Associate Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School, is the 2014 recipient of the Barancik Prize for Innovation in MS Research, an international award established in 2013 to drive progress in multiple sclerosis research. Dr. De Jager, a clinician and a researcher, was selected for his work in applying powerful analytic approaches to better understand how genes and the environment interact with the goal of developing personalized treatments for MS and, ultimately, disease prevention.
Dr. De Jager is a founding member of the International MS Genetics Consortium (IMSGC) and has played a key role in nearly every major gene discovery and advancement over the past decade. Dr. De Jager led the meta-analysis of genome scans that the Consortium published in 2009, which was one of the first instances in which this powerful analytic approach was deployed for any human disease. This work has culminated in the creation of the new MS Genomic Map that will be released in 2015 by the IMSGC.
He is continuing his work through the International MS Genetics Consortium to create a definitive genetic map of MS susceptibility. He, and colleagues worldwide, is using this map to understand the functional consequences of MS genetic risk factors to create potential personalized approaches to predict, treat and ultimately prevent MS.
Dr. De Jager has implemented several novel resources for the MS community, including the PhenoGenetic project with over 1,800 healthy individuals and the Genes & Environment in MS (GEMS) project that recruited over 3,000 MS family members in the last three years. These and other long-term studies will attempt to answer questions that people affected by MS need to know, including why some people develop MS and others don’t, why certain people respond differently to medications and treatments, and why some people’s MS progresses faster than others.
“Overall, I see two compelling and complementary projects,” Dr. De Jager explained. “First is to understand a person’s trajectory from not having MS to their diagnosis. Here, identifying a treatment for the prevention of MS is a key goal of our studies, but it requires a complementary approach to identify the individuals at highest risk of developing the disease since most family members do not develop MS.” Dr. De Jager added, “The second project is to gather enough data on a single, large set of MS patients to set the stage for an impactful discovery effort to understand MS-related neurodegeneration.” For this effort, he has creatively used technology to enhance patient engagement through the use of patient-powered web platforms, electronic health records and smartphone-based tools to better characterize MS participants in these studies.
“We’re thrilled to present the 2014 Barancik Prize to Dr. De Jager for his visionary approach towards understanding the genetic architecture of MS,” said Dr. Timothy Coetzee, Chief Advocacy, Services and Research Officer at the National MS Society. “Dr. De Jager has leveraged his deep understanding of the clinical context of MS with his background in molecular genetics and immunology, to design new ways of approaching and answering challenging MS questions.
” Through Dr. De Jager’s innovative analytical approach to genetics research, he is committed to pursuing critical questions that will change the face of MS clinical care and lead us closer to ending MS.
To preview a video on Dr. De Jager, please visit the Society’s website.