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John Dystel Prize


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The John Dystel Prize for Multiple Sclerosis Research is awarded jointly by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society and the American Academy of Neurology (AAN). The Prize, currently in the amount of $15,000, recognizes outstanding contributions to research in the understanding, treatment or prevention of multiple sclerosis. The prize is intended to recognize significant and exciting work which has influenced the way we think about multiple sclerosis, but it is not meant to be a lifetime achievement award.

The award is made possible through a special contribution from the John Dystel Multiple Sclerosis Research Fund at the National MS Society. The late Society National Board member Oscar Dystel and his late wife Marion established this fund in 1994 in honor of their son John Jay, an attorney whose promising career was cut short by progressive disability from MS. John died of complications of the disease in June 2003.

Recipient is expected is expected to present a lecture during a scientific session at the latest AAN Annual Meeting, and will receive:

  • $15,000 prize to be used at the recipient's discretion
  • Complimentary registration for the latest American Academy of Neurology Annual Meeting
  • Reimbursement for attending the latest Annual Meeting travel and two days' meals and lodging expenses
  • Recognition at the AAN Awards Luncheon at the latest Annual Meeting


Must be actively engaged in basic or clinical research related to multiple sclerosis

Application procedure

Applicants should follow this link to the AAN's Website and submit one complete set of the following materials:
  1. Completed application form
  2. Current curriculum vitae
  3. Letter from colleague summarizing applicant's body of work including:
  • Relevant background material
  • Research accomplishments placed in context
  • Assessment of the direct or indirect impact of contributions to the understanding of multiple sclerosis


For the 2019 prize, applications will be accepted until October 24, 2018. Award notifications will be sent to all applicants in January.



Frederik Barkhof, MD, PhD, was honored as a leader in using MRI to improve the diagnosis of MS, to better understand the disease, and to speed the search for better therapies. He is Professor of Neuroradiology in the Department of Radiology and Nuclear Medicine, VU University Medical Center (Amsterdam, The Netherlands) and at the Institutes of Neurology and Healthcare Engineering, University College London (London, UK). Read more


Alan J. Thompson, MD, Dean of the University College London Faculty of Brain Sciences, was honored for pioneering research in ways to address symptoms and improve quality of life for people with MS, and as a leader and driver of the International Progressive MS Alliance.


Claudia Lucchinetti, MD, Chair of Neurology and the Eugene and Marcia Applebaum Professor in Neurosciences at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, was honored for contributions to understanding the neuropathology of MS – how the disease damages brain and spinal cord tissues – and translating this understanding into better care for people with MS. Read more.


Alastair Compston, PhD, MBBS, FRCP (University of Cambridge, United Kingdom) was honored for driving advances in immunology from the laboratory to the clinic, and for his pivotal role in an international collaboration that revolutionized MS genetics research. Read more.


Barry Arnason, MD (University of Chicago), was honored for fundamental insights into the immune attacks that are launched on the brain and spinal cord in MS. Read more.


George C. Ebers, MD (University of Oxford in London), was honored for his extensive contributions to understanding MS, shedding new light on factors such as genes that contribute to susceptibility to MS. Read more.


Richard M. Ransohoff, MD (Cleveland Clinic’s Lerner Research Institute and Mellen Center for MS Treatment and Research) was honored for pioneering work in MS that led to new insights on immune activity in the brain and spinal cord (neuroimmunology). 


Brian Weinshenker, MD (Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN) was honored for groundbreaking findings relating to the diagnosis and treatment of MS. 


David A. Hafler, MD (Yale University, New Haven, CT) was honored for fundamental discoveries related to MS in fields such as immunology and genetics, and for bringing clinical importance to basic science findings.


David H. Miller, MD, FRCP (Institute of Neurology, University College London) was honored for revolutionizing what we know about MS and its treatment through his pioneering research using imaging techniques such as magnetic resonance imaging. 


Stephen L. Hauser, MD (University of California, San Francisco) was honored for his pioneering studies on genetic susceptibility to MS, and for his role in translating findings on the role of immune B cells in MS into clinical trials. 


Howard L. Weiner, MD (Harvard Medical School) was honored for his contributions toward understanding the development of the immune attack in MS, translating these findings into MS treatments, and for advancing clinical care of people with this disease. 


The late William A. Sibley, MD (University of Arizona, Tucson) was recognized for clarifying the influence of infections in the occurrence of MS relapses, and for the ramifications of these pivotal findings on MS treatment.  


Neuroimmunologist Jack Antel, MD (McGill University) was honored for his major contributions in establishing the study of interactions between the immune system and the brain and its application to multiple sclerosis, and for his role as a leading MS clinician and investigator.


Lawrence Steinman, MD (Stanford Medical Center) was recognized for his major contributions to our understanding of animal models of MS, and for translating these findings to the clinical development of novel therapeutic strategies for MS.


Bruce D. Trapp, PhD (Lerner Research Institute at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation) was chosen for his major contributions to our understanding of brain tissue destruction and repair in MS. These findings changed the face of MS research and have had significant implications for the development of new therapies.


Stephen G. Waxman, MD, PhD, (Yale University) was chosen for his fundamental contributions to our understanding of the pathophysiology of MS, that is, how damage to the brain and spinal cord in MS produces the characteristic symptoms of multiple sclerosis. His work on sodium channels (tiny pores along the axon that are essential for nerve conduction) has helped us understand the origin of neurological problems in MS, and also helped to focus attention on treatments aimed at improving nerve function.


John W. Prineas, MB, BS, FRCP, (University of Sydney, Australia) was recognized for being the investigator who first described how myelin, the substance that insulates nerve fibers, is broken down in MS, and he was the first to demonstrate that myelin repair occurs during the course of MS. Dr. Prineas also provided pivotal descriptions of the diversity among lesions and nerve damage in people with MS — now a pivotal and increasingly exciting area of MS research.


The late neurologist Kenneth P. Johnson, MD (University of Maryland) was recognized for his international leadership in designing and conducting controlled, multi-center clinical trials to test treatments for MS, and for his pioneering laboratory efforts to identify an infectious trigger of the disease. He was also cited for his dedication to aggressive symptom management and rehabilitation to improve the quality of life of those living with MS.


The late neurologist W. Ian McDonald, MB, ChB, PhD (Institute of Neurology at University College in London ) was the first person to show that loss of myelin results in the inability of the nerve impulse to continue across a demyelinated portion of a nerve fiber. His work raised significant new questions in distinguishing primary and secondary progressive MS, and he has provided worldwide leadership in the role of magnetic resonance imaging in MS.


A leader in MS research, Henry F. McFarland, MD (Neuroimmunology Branch, National Institute of Neurological Diseases and Stroke) was cited for his groundbreaking research into immune and genetic factors that underlie susceptibility to MS. His work in MRI showed that disease activity occurs even in the absence of clinical changes, and helped establish MRI as a vital tool in clinical trials of potential treatments.


The late neuroepidemiologist John F. Kurtzke, MD (Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Washington, DC) was recognized for his development of the disability status scale that bears his name and his pivotal epidemiological and demographic studies of MS.


A leading neuroimmunologist and neuropathologist, Cedric S. Raine, PhD, DSc, (Albert Einstein College of Medicine), was chosen in recognition of his numerous studies that have significantly advanced our understanding of the mechanisms of myelin loss (demyelination), myelin regeneration (remyelination), and the fate of the myelin-making cells, called oligodendrocytes, in MS lesions.


The late Donald W. Paty, MD, FRCP(C) (University of British Columbia) was the first recipient of the John Jay Dystel Prize for MS Research, in recognition of his pioneering work in evaluating the course and progression of multiple sclerosis by repeated MRI scans. Dr. Paty was at the forefront using this tool to further our understanding of the nervous system and how it is affected by MS. Dr. Paty was also a leader in developing methods for collecting clinical information on patients to document the "natural history," or natural course, of MS. In collaboration with MS research colleagues and the MS Society of Canada, he started the MS clinic system in Canada which has resulted in many collaborative nationwide studies.


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