Deserved recognition

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At the end of the opening session of the International Symposium on ALS/MND, two members of the MND research community were recognised for their contribution to the field.

Professor Orla Hardiman, from Trinity College, Dublin is this year’s recipient of the Forbes Norris Award. Presented by Dee Forbes Norris, this award recognises care and compassion in the study and management of MND/ALS. It is awarded by the International Alliance of the ALS/MND in consultation with the World Federation of Neurology. Prof Hardiman accepted the award saying “I’m not normally lost for words, but to use a local expression, I’m gobsmacked”. She paid tribute to her colleagues throughout her career and in particular to what she described as as her formative years in Boston, USA, working with Professor Bob Brown Jnr.

It was a privilege to witness the first presentation of an Institute Paulo Gontijo (IPG) Young Investigator award at the Symposium. Following a moving speech from Paulo’s daughter Marcela, Professor Mamede de Carvalho, chair of the awarding panel announced that the unanimous decision was to give the award to Dr Aaron Gitler of University of Pennsylvania.

“I’m honoured and humbled to accept this award” commented Dr Gitler. “The ALS field is experiencing a revolution, with paradigm changing discoveries even in the last few months – it is good to be a part of it”.

He gave a brief overview of the research that led to this award. The work has been conducted in the most basic of organisms – yeast. Without a brain and spinal cord, looking at yeast may seem an unusual way to study MND Dr Gitler acknowledged. However, as his talk demonstrated, yeast are an excellent model for understanding a common cellular sign of many neurodegenerative diseases – accumulation of proteins. A modifier of protein that accumulates in the yeast model led the way to identifying a link with a protein called Ataxin2 in MND.

Read our official day one symposium press release on our website.