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News

New $8.4 million Saskatchewan MS research chair announced at U of S

By schf | In Recent News | on January 27, 2017

Dr. Michael Levin is the new University of Saskatchewan Chair in Multiple Sclerosis Clinical Research. Saskatoon City Hospital Foundation contributed $5 million to create this vital position. (Photo courtesy of David Stobbe / stobbephoto.ca)

A new $8.4 million University of Saskatchewan Chair in Multiple Sclerosis Clinical Research will lead a drive toward a cure for multiple sclerosis (MS), the University of Saskatchewan and partner organizations announced today. Rates of MS, a debilitating disease of the central nervous system, are the highest in the world in Saskatchewan and Canada.

To lead the research program focused on identifying causes of MS and developing new or improved treatments, the U of S has recruited renowned MS researcher Dr. Michael Levin, who will take up the position for a seven-year term in March 2017.

“This recruitment is an important step forward in the effort to increase MS research and improve clinical care for Saskatchewan people with MS,” said Saskatoon University MLA Eric Olauson, on behalf of Minister of Health Jim Reiter.  “This fulfills one of the recommendations made by the MS Advisory Panel last February, and helps build momentum for the participation of Saskatchewan people in clinical research.”

“I’ve dedicated most of my adult life to exploring the causes of MS and the care of people with MS and I am grateful and humbled to be named the inaugural chair,” said Levin, a neurologist and professor at the College of Medicine at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, and Director of the Multiple Sclerosis Center and Laboratory of Viral and Demyelinating Diseases, in Memphis, Tennessee.

“This is a unique opportunity. We will make significant advances in MS by providing world-class care and cutting-edge research, garnering a national and international reputation for excellence.”

Support for the chair is provided by the Saskatoon City Hospital Foundation, the Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation, the MS Society of Canada and the U of S Centennial Enhancement Chair program, as well as the U of S College of Medicine and the Saskatoon Health Region.

Levin will lead a team of researchers, clinicians and students that includes Dr. Katherine Knox, whose research focuses on MS and mobility, and Dr. Valerie Verge, director of the Cameco Neuroscience Research Centre, whose research focuses on nerve injury and repair mechanisms. Both are U of S College of Medicine researchers.

“The College of Medicine is proud to be leading this critically important partnership initiative in an area of health research so important for Saskatchewan,” said Dr. Preston Smith, Dean of Medicine. “Our team will engage locally in discoveries to directly benefit the people of our province, where an estimated 3,500 to 3,700 residents live with MS, while also helping to train our young clinician researchers.”

Levin’s research has focused on the relationship between viruses, autoantibodies and acquired DNA mutations as potential causes of multiple sclerosis. He completed a post-doctoral fellowship with a focus on multiple sclerosis at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. His medical internship and residency training were completed at the combined New York Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center – Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center program in New York City, where he was chief neurology resident. He obtained his medical degree at Pennsylvania State University.

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U of S and partner organization quotes:

“This is another terrific example of how we are attracting top researchers to this campus, and how partnerships in the health sector, led by our College of Medicine, can advance health research for the benefit of the people of Saskatchewan and beyond,” said U of S Vice-President Research Karen Chad,

“Saskatoon City Hospital is unique in North America in that it has both an MS Neuroscience Research Center and an MS Clinic,” said Steve Shannon, CEO of Saskatoon City Hospital Foundation. “The Foundation raised $5 million to support the creation of a Clinical Research Chair because it will lead and coordinate research here in Saskatchewan. This will benefit the center’s researchers in their efforts to understand and eventually cure MS, and the physicians at the clinic in their endeavours to treat those afflicted with MS.”

“The Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation (SHRF) is proud to be a co-funder of the Saskatchewan Chair in MS Clinical Research, “said Patrick Odnokon, Interim CEO of SHRF. “We are confident that Dr. Levin is the right person to do this important research for the benefit of Saskatchewan MS patients and their families.”

“As the largest funder of MS research in Canada, the MS Society is incredibly proud to see the acceleration of MS research continuing to grow in Saskatchewan,” said Erin Kuan, President, MS Society of Canada Saskatchewan Division. “The establishment of the MS Clinical Research Chair is a monumental step in building additional clinical care, resources and most importantly hope for those living with MS.”