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Northern Ireland Multiple Sclerosis Research Network

Guest Speakers

Meet the Speakers

Key speakers will address the conference with their expertise and experience.

Catherine Lubetzki
Sorbonne, France

Professor of Neurology at Sorbonne University and Head of the Department of Neurology in Salpêtrière Hospital

Professor Lubetzki is professor of Neurology at Sorbonne University and head of the department of Neurology in Salpêtrière Hospital. She coordinates the Salpêtrière Multiple Sclerosis clinical research centre.

Her research focuses on the pathophysiology of MS, notably uncovering the interactions between myelin and axons, showing that the electrical activity of axons induces myelin formation, and that positive or negative axonal signalling can impact the repair mechanism.

She is a highly respected scientist in the field of MS treatment and is also a role model for women in science and a superb mentor to junior researchers, something recognised by her peers around the world. Professor Lubetzki was the second female professor of neurology across France.  She is a strong advocate of encouraging more women into neurology. While the number of women in the field is increasing, she says this still needs to be greatly improved.

Professor Catherine Lubetzki was the winner of the prestigious MS International Federation (MSIF) 2019 Charcot Award.

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Roberta Magliozzi
Verona, Italy

Assistant Professor of the Department of Neurological and Movement Sciences at University of Verona, Italy & Research Associate at the Wolfson Neuroscience Laboratories, Imperial College London, UK

Her main research interest is to better understand the immunopathological mechanisms involved in multiple sclerosis and in particular in cortical grey matter pathology. She has paid particular attention to the inflammatory response and the role of lymphoid-like structures in the meningeal compartment of post-mortem MS tissues and in the intrathecal inflammation generated in the cerebrospinal fluid analysis of MS patients. This with the main aim to identify possible neuroimmunological mechanisms involved in multiple sclerosis and potential new biomarkers of the different disease phenotypes and of MS progression.

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Sandra Amor
Amsterdam, Netherlands

Head of Multiple Sclerosis Research in the Pathology Department at VU Medical Center, Amsterdam University

Sandra Amor obtained her PhD in Pathology at London University, UK in 1988, specialising in virus infections of the central nervous system. After her PhD she established a research group at St Thomas’s Hospital  London UK, examining how autoimmune responses to brain proteins are involved in multiple sclerosis. Her research expanded and after a few years in neurosciences at Imperial College she moved to the Netherlands where she became Head of Autoimmunity at a Research Institute in Rijswijk. In 2007, Sandra Amor moved her research back into human pathology at the Free University in Amsterdam. As a lead researcher in Multiple Sclerosis Research in the Pathology Department Sandra’s group specialises in examining the very first steps in the formation of damage in multiple sclerosis.  Her virology, pathology and experimental background has given her a unique position in the field of MS. She also has an honorary position at Blizard Institute, Barts and The London Hospital, London UK.

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Imre Lengyel
Belfast, UK

Senior Lecturer, Wellcome-Wolfson Institute for Experimental Medicine, Queen’s University Belfast

Imre’s group studies how aging affects the healthy and diseased eye. They study this through imaging participants with a variety of clinical tools and complement these clinical studies with characterising the molecular changes in the human retina as well as in animal and cellular models. One of the diseases that is in the focus of the Lengyel group is the changes associated with multiple sclerosis in the visual system. This complements studies on specific forms of Alzheimer’s disease and Down syndrome as well as age-related macular degeneration. They hope to develop methods for more precise and earlier detection of disease signs to facilitate new treatment approaches.

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Ruth Dobson
London, UK

Clinical Senior Lecturer in the Preventive Neurology Unit at the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine at Queen Mary University of London, Honorary Clinical Senior Lecturer at Imperial College London and Honorary Consultant Neurologist at Barts Health NHS Trust

Dr Ruth Dobson is currently a Clinical Senior Lecturer in the Preventive Neurology Unit at the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine, QMUL, an Honorary Clinical Senior Lecturer at Imperial College and an Honorary Consultant Neurologist at Barts Health NHS Trust. She studied medicine at Clare College, Cambridge and UCL, before completing medical and neurology training in London, Birmingham and Sussex.

She completed her PhD in 2013, which examined the genetic and environmental determinants of MS risk. This was supported by an ABN/MS Society Clinical Research Training Fellowship and a Brain Entry Scholarship. She was awarded an AAN International Scholarship Award for her research. She has over 50 publications in peer reviewed journals. Current research projects are supported by the MS Society, Horne Family Foundation and Barts Charity. She has recently developed and set up an international mentorship scheme for women working in the field of MS, and is a non-executive committee member of international women in MS (iWiMS). She is a Royal College of Physicians Emerging Women Leaders 2019 cohort member.

Her main research interests are around the early identification and epidemiology of multiple sclerosis, with a particular focus on genetic and environmental risk factors including Epstein Barr virus infection and vitamin D. She is also working on how these may affect downstream morbidity in MS, in particular bone health. She was recently involved in developing and publishing UK consensus guidelines on pregnancy in MS, and is developing a UK MS pregnancy register. A further research interest is pharmacovigilance and treatment-associated risk in MS, and she is principal investigator on a UK-wide study to examine this further.

Outside of work she spends much of her time enjoying looking after her two young daughters, and enjoys swimming and playing the cello when she gets a chance.

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Martin Duddy
Newcastle upon Tyne, UK

Consultant Neurologist and Clinical Director for Neurosciences at Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals and Honorary Senior Lecturer at Newcastle University

Dr Martin Duddy studied biochemistry and medicine at Queen’s University Belfast, graduating in 1992. His clinical training and post-graduate research in neurology were at the Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast and the Montreal Neurological Institute, Canada. He was appointed a consultant neurologist with a special interest in MS at the Royal Victoria Infirmary, Newcastle upon Tyne in 2003 and is Clinical Director for Neurosciences. He was clinical lead for the UK MS Risk Sharing Scheme. He is currently a board member of the Multiple Sclerosis Journal, vice-chair of the UK MS Society Registers Management Board and is local principal investigator and UK chief investigator for a large number of collaborative studies.

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Gabriele DeLuca
Oxford, UK

Associate Professor of Clinical Neurology and Director of Clinical Neurosciences Undergraduate Education at Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences, University of Oxford

Prof Gabriele De Luca is a clinician-scientist in Clinical Neurology at the University of Oxford. He completed his neurology training at the Mayo Clinic, Rochester, USA where he was Chief Resident and an Assistant Professor of Neurology. During his time at Mayo Clinic, he won several clinical awards including the Robert J. Filberg Fellowship, an award given to the top Canadian trainee at Mayo Clinic, and the Henry W. Woltman Award, a prize given to the top resident/fellow for clinical excellence in Neurology at Mayo Clinic.  On completion of his Neurology training, he returned to Oxford supported by the prestigious AANF/CMSC John F. Kurtzke Clinician-Scientist Development Award. His research work has resulted in numerous publications and awards, including the prestigious Cavanagh Prize awarded by the British Neuropathological Society. He has been named as an Oxford University Hospitals ‘Leader of Tomorrow’ and ‘Champion for Change,’

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Basil Sharrack
Sheffield, UK

Consultant Neurologist at the Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Honorary Professor of Clinical Neurology at the University of Sheffield, Director of the Sheffield MS Research Clinic

Professor Sharrack is a Consultant Neurologist at the Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and an Honorary Professor of Clinical Neurology at the University of Sheffield. He is the Director of the Sheffield MS Research Clinic and the NIHR Sheffield BRC Neuro-inflammation Lead.

Professor Sharrack was trained at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery, UCL, London and was awarded a PhD from King’s College, London.

His principal academic areas of interest are neuro inflammation with reference to multiple sclerosis, therapeutic clinical trials in multiple sclerosis, autologous haematopoietic stem cell transplantation in immune mediated neurological disorders and cognitive rehabilitation in multiples sclerosis. He has over 130 peer reviewed original articles (11,193 citations; H-Index 43).

Over the years, he has played a leading role in the design and conduct of clinical trials in multiple sclerosis including the first phase III Autologous Haematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation treatment in this condition. 

Basil is the Director of the Sheffield MS Research Clinic. He is also Chair of the Sheffield Research Ethics Committee and a member of the EBMT Autoimmune Diseases Working Party.

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Bill Richardson
London, UK

Professor of Biology, Head of the Department of Biology and Director of the UCL Wolfson Institute for Biomedical Research at University College London

Bill Richardson is Professor of Biology at University College London (UCL), where he has been Head of the Department of Biology (2001-2007) and Director of the UCL Wolfson Institute for Biomedical Research (2012-2016). He was educated in his home city of Belfast, the University of Manchester (Physics) and King's College London (Biophysics).  After postdoctoral stints at the National Institutes of Health (USA) and the National Institute for Medical Research (London), he was appointed Lecturer in Molecular Genetics at UCL in 1985, then Professor in 1993.

In 2013 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society.  He is also a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences (2011) and of the Linnean Society of London (2007).

Prof Richardson has spent the last ~30 years leading research into the biology of glial cells – especially oligodendrocytes, the myelin-forming cells of the central nervous system (CNS).  In early work he identified a population of glial precursor cells (now called NG2 glia) that first arise in specialized regions of the fetal brain and spinal cord, and subsequently proliferate and migrate widely throughout the developing CNS before differentiating into oligodendrocytes and myelinating axons.  Large numbers of NG2 glia persist in the adult mammalian brain and spinal cord, continuing to generate new oligodendrocytes and myelin throughout normal healthy life.  This observation gave rise to the intriguing idea that late-forming myelin might modify the properties of neural circuits and contribute to neural plasticity.  In the past 10 years Prof Richardson’s team has shown that newly-forming oligodendrocytes are required for young adult mice to learn new motor skills (e.g. running on a “complex wheel” with unevenly spaced rungs).  This is in keeping with MRI studies over the past decade that have revealed that white matter tracts are modified structurally as people learn complex motor skills such as playing the piano or juggling.  Prof Richardson and his team continue to study the role of NG2 cells and oligodendrocytes in learning and memory – as well as their regenerative role during demyelinating disease – through a combination of genetic and behavioural experiments in mice.

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Julia Edgar
Glasgow, UK

Senior Lecturer in Neuroimmunology in the Institute of Infection, Immunity and Inflammation and Associate of the School of Vetenary Medicine at the University of Glasgow

Julia Edgar completed her PhD in Developmental Neuroscience at the University of Edinburgh, funded by a WellcomeTrust Prize studentship. Subsequently, she moved to the field of myelin research, undertaking her first post-doctoral position with Professor Ian Griffiths at the University of Glasgow, where she studied models of the leukodystrophies. She obtained a Junior Fellowship from the UK MS Society 2005-2009; becoming a lecturer in Neuroscience at the University of Glasgow in 2009. She undertook a two year visiting staff scientist position at the Max Planck Institute of Experimental Medicine in Goettingen, Germany between 2011 and 2013 and is currently senior lecturer in Neurimmunology in the Institute of Infection, Immunity and Inflammation, at the University of Glasgow.

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Violetta Zujovic
Sorbonne, France

Principal Investigator in the team Cellular and Molecular Approaches for Myelin Repair and co-head of MY PLANET (MYelin PLAsticity and regeNEraTion) at the Institute for Brain and Spine (ICM) at Salpêtrière Hospital

Violetta Zujovic joined the ICM (Institut du cerveau et de la moelle épinière) in 2009 as a principal investigator in the team “Cellular and Molecular Approaches for Myelin Repair” and is the co head of MY PLANET (MYelin PLAsticity and regeNEraTion) team since 2019.

She received her PhD in Neurosciences in 2001 at the university Paris XII. After doing her PhD in the pharmaceutical industry (Sanofi), she did her post-doctoral training in pharmacology at the Pharmacology Department of the University of Florida then a second post-doctoral training in the INSERM unit U 975 during which she was appointed as Chargée de Recherche in 2011 at INSERM. She was the representative of the molecular and cellular domain in the ICM scientific steering committee and is an active member of the gender equity committee since 2016.

Immune cells (lymphocytes and macrophages) are major players in central nervous system destruction but they also orchestrate endogenous repair processes. Therefore, elucidating their role and mode of action appears as a prerequisite to tackle the complexity of neurological diseases genesis and progression. At the intersection between neuroscience and immunology, this challenging question requires a specific knowledge in the domain of neuroimmunology, the field that has been the focus of her research since the beginning of her career.

She notably developed a new humanized mouse model of Multiple Sclerosis (MS) lesions, and evidenced a heterogeneous pattern of myelin repair for MS patients, identifying novel molecules involved in Oligodendrocytes differentiation in pathological conditions. Interested in patient heterogeneity of response to pathological conditions, she also studies immune cell functionality and transcriptomic profile to identify the hallmarks of an efficient environment to increase the repair process.

Her expertise in both inflammation and neurological diseases, recognized among the scientific community, led her to co-organize the ISN Satellite meeting “Immune cells and the CNS” (2017), participate in the local organizing committee of the ECTRIMS/ACTRIMS in Paris (2017) and the International Society  of Neuroimmunology meeting in Nice (2020). Since 2019, she is part of the French Neuroimmunology Club steering committee.

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Axel Petzold
London, UK

Consultant Neurologist, Moorfields Eye Hospital London & VU Medical Centre Amsterdam, Senior Lecturer at University College London and Director of the Dutch Expertise Centre for Neuro-Ophthalmology

Dr Axel Petzold graduated from the Medical University of Freiburg, Germany. He received a MD (summa cum laude) in Experimental Ophthalmology with Ted Sharpe (University of Freiburg) and a PhD in Biochemistry with Ed Thompson (University College London). He trained as a neurologist in France (Lyon), Germany (Munich) and the United Kingdom (London).

He is a consultant neurologist employed jointly by Moorfields Eye Hospital (MEH) and the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery (UCLH NHNN) in London. He is also employed as a consultant neurologist jointly by the Departments of Neurology and Opthalmology at the Amsterdam University Medical Centre (AUMC) where he is the Director of the Dutch Expertise Centre for Neuro-Ophthalmology. He is the chairman for neuro-ophthalmology of the European Reference Networks for Rare Diseases and a honorary Senior Lecturer at the Department of Neuroinflammation, UCL.

Dr Petzold's primary research interest is on the recognition, prevention and treatment of axonal degeneration in optic neuropathies. The disease spectrum covers Multiple Sclerosis associated Optic Neuritis (MSON) and those optic neuropathies which are considered a rare disease.

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