The MSA Coalition® Scientific Advisory Board
The Multiple System Atrophy Coalition® is very proud to have a world-class Scientific Advisory Board (SAB) comprised of renowned globally-diverse researchers, scientists and physicians who are considered thought-leaders in the field of multiple system atrophy research. The SAB’s mission is to ensure independent and objective review of each research proposal application submitted to The MSA Coalition’s Research Grant Program, to rank them by scientific merit and subsequently advise the Board of Directors about the top-ranked projects. Under their guidance the MSA Coalition funds promising research that is directly applicable to identifying:
- A clear cause of MSA
- Improved methods leading to an earlier and more accurate diagnosis
- Better treatments to alleviate MSA symptoms and improve quality of life
- Interventions that slow, halt or reverse the progression of MSA
- A cure for MSA
A Track Record of Success
Since 2013, the MSA Coalition’s Scientific Advisory Board has reviewed and scored over 180 research grant proposals resulting in the funding of 55 multiple system atrophy research project grants at 34 institutions around the world. In total, these projects have received $3.5 million in funding.
Thanks to the incredible volunteer efforts and dedication of the SAB, along with a team of over a dozen adhoc peer reviewers, the MSA Coalition’s rigorous peer-reviewed research grant approval process has been likened to that of the NIH and the Michael J. Fox Foundation. When donating to the MSA Coalition you can feel assured that your contribution is being used in the most effective ways possible as we continue to build hope for those living with MSA!
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MSA Coalition Scientific Advisory Board (SAB) Members
GREGOR K. WENNING, MD, PhD - Chairman
“After losing my father to motor neuron disease (ALS) in 1979 I decided to pursue a degree in medicine. During my MD studies, I spent my first clinical year in London at King’s College where I first met Prof. Niall Quinn and Prof. David Marsden at the movement disorder clinic. I actually saw my first MSA patient there in 1987, presented by Niall Quinn. This was a turning point, and I decided I would really like to devote my career to these movement disorders. Shortly after I graduated from Münster in 1990, Niall Quinn phoned to tell me about a job possibility at the UK Parkinson’s Disease Society to spend a 3-year PhD grant on MSA research. I dropped everything and headed back to London to take the position. Following the 3-year PhD period, my future wife, Roberta and I were offered jobs in the Department of Neurology at Innsbruck, where I and my team continue to investigate MSA disease mechanisms, biomarkers and treatment approaches with the ultimate goal to find a cure for MSA. Serving the MSA Coalition as scientific advisor, it is thrilling to see how much energy and passion goes into fighting this terrible disease and I am convinced that the Coalition’s efforts will soon pay dividends.”
Prof. Gregor K. Wenning is director of the Dysautonomia Center and chair of the Division for Clinical Neurobiology at Innsbruck Medical University. Following medical studies as scholar of the German National Scholarship Foundation, he generated the first MSA mouse model during his PhD studies at the University of London, which has gained international attention. As Co-Founding Director and Coordinator of the European MSA Study Group, Prof. Wenning leads a consortium of 28 MSA centers in Europe and Israel, with the goal of driving forward accurate diagnostic markers and translational therapy research. Combining clinical and basic research, Prof. Wenning’s goal is to find a cure for people affected by multiple system atrophy. With over 150 peer-reviewed articles and book chapters published on MSA, including an invited review of MSA in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine, Prof. Wenning’s impact on the field of MSA research is unparalleled (see Expertscape). He also holds the distinction of publishing the first-ever medical textbook on Multiple System Atrophy. He currently serves as associate editor of Clinical Autonomic Research. Prof Wenning has delivered over 200 national and international invited lectures on MSA, notably presenting at the US National Institutes of Health in Bethesda in 2016. He was awarded the inaugural Steven K. Myers lecture on MSA and other Atypical Parkinsonisms in 2016, the semi-plenary MSA lecture of the Japanese Neurological Society in 2018 and the plenary MSA lecture of the American Autonomic Society in 2018. In addition, he was invited to present grand rounds at the University of Maryland in 2016. In 2017, he founded the Austrian Otto Loewi Society to promote the study of all diseases of the autonomic nervous system. He has served on the council of the European Federation of Autonomic Societies (EFAS), as well as on the International Executive Committee (European Section) of the International Parkinson and Movement Disorder Society (MDS) and is currently chair of the MDS Multiple System Atrophy Study Group (MoDiMSA). As chair of the MDS Taskforce on the Diagnosis of Multiple System Atrophy, Prof. Wenning is currently leading efforts to revise the consensus criteria on the diagnosis of MSA in order to affect earlier and more accurate diagnosis of MSA which will greatly expedite clinical trials for this devastating disease. Prof Wenning received the Birkmayer award (1998), the Oppenheimer award (2004), the JP Schouppe “JiePie” award (2014), Dr. Johannes Tuba award (2017) and the JP Schouppe “JiePie” Lifetime Achievement Award for MSA Research (2020).
Prof. Gregor K. Wenning was profiled in Lancet Neurology in 2012:
WASSILIOS MEISSNER, MD, PhD - Vice Chairman
“It was a little by chance that I joined the MSA field in 2007. It was at the time when the French Reference Center for MSA was just labelled by the First French Plan for Rare Diseases. François Tison and Olivier Rascol, who had obtained the label, were looking for two young movement disorder specialists to establish the sites in Bordeaux and Toulouse according to the mission defined by the French Plan. This is when I stepped in. It was a very exciting task to establish the center and to start following patients with a dedicated multidisciplinary team. Over the years, we had the chance to conduct several studies to better understand the disease and to assess potential treatments, but still so much needs to be done to ease the lives of our patients and their families. In recent years, the MSA Coalition has become an invaluable resource for patients and their families. It is today also a key player for global research funding and continues to connect patients, clinicians and researchers. I am convinced that all these efforts will pay off and ultimately translate into better treatments.”
Prof. Wassilios Meissner is co-chair of the French Reference Center for MSA and director of the Expert Centre for Parkinson’s disease (PD) at the University Hospital Bordeaux. He received his medical degree in 1997 from Humboldt University Berlin in Germany and his Board Certification in Neurology in 2005 after completing his residency at the Charité University Hospital in Berlin and the University Hospital Bordeaux. In 2005, he was awarded a PhD in Neuroscience at the University Bordeaux. He was appointed Professor of Neurology at the University Bordeaux in 2012. Prof. Meissner is current chair of the International Education Committee of the International Parkinson and Movement Disorders Society (MDS), co-chairs the Atypical Parkinsonism Disease Group of the European Reference Network for Rare Neurological Disorders and is a member of the MDS Task Force on MSA Diagnosis Criteria Revision. He has authored more than 130 peer-reviewed publications in the field of movement disorders, many dealing with MSA, and has given over 100 invited lectures in more than 20 countries. His current research focuses on biological and clinical markers of disease progression in MSA, as well as the development of new preclinical models and treatments for MSA in a translational approach. Within his current research activities, Prof. Meissner chairs the working group of the MDS-sponsored MSA Study Group dedicated to the development of fluid biomarkers, has recently completed a phase 1 study with two vaccines directed against alpha-synuclein in MSA patients within the framework of the European SYMPATH consortium and coordinates the European ARTEMIS consortium that evaluates the efficacy of several drug candidates in preclinical models of MSA.
GLENDA M. HALLIDAY, PhD
“I first encountered the concept of Parkinson’s disease at University in 1982 when it was thought that only dopamine neurons were mainly targeted. I thought that I could contribute to finding out what was so special about those neurons and what would make them vulnerable to such a disease. So I embarked on a PhD to find out more about those neurons (note they are very different in laboratory animals to humans) and to see what changed in Parkinson’s disease. To my surprise my research on Parkinson’s disease found that many other neurons in the brainstem and forebrain were affected in the same way, and that the dopamine cells may not be so special. I also found out that people with a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease could have MSA or other pathologies at death, and that I needed to know more about what happened in the brain in movement disorders in general. This led me to work closely with the Sydney Movement Disorders Society and the Movement Disorders Society of Australia and to set up longitudinal research programs in Australia. I diagnosed my mother-in-law with prodromal Parkinson’s disease as a participant in this research and have been truly inspired by the many people I have had the pleasure of working with that really partner with researchers to get the vital knowledge needed – knowledge on the clinical course, the biological changes over time, the response to best practice treatments, and potential risk factors that may predispose to these disorders. I am hopeful that the pace of research discovery at present will deliver the mechanistic treatments that we really need for MSA.”
Prof. Glenda M. Halliday is a career neuroscientist specializing in neurodegeneration. She has been a National Health & Medical Research Council of Australia (NHMRC) Fellow since 1990, was appointed Professor of Medicine (2003) then of Neuroscience (2008), then NHMRC Senior Principal Research Fellow (2010) at the University of New South Wales, and now at the University of Sydney. She works on the pathobiology of different stages of neurodegeneration, knowledge necessary for the development of therapies and strategies for the prevention of neurodegenerative syndromes. Prof. Halliday was director of the Sydney Brain Bank (2008-2016), elected president of the Australian Neuroscience Society (2006-2007), appointed to the NHMRC Academy (2009, 2011) and Australian Research Council College of Experts (2013), and served as secretary of the Asia/Pacific Reginal Committee of the International Brain Research Organization (associated with UNESCO) and treasurer of the Coast Medical Association Tow Research Committee (2008-2016). She is currently on the editorial boards of 5 international journals (4 previously), on the Scientific Advisory Board of the Danish Research Institute of Translational Neuroscience, on the New South Wales Brain Banks Interinstitutional Board, on the Biobanking Advisory Group of the New South Wales Government Office of Health & Medical Research, and chairs the Scientific Conference Committee of the International Society of Frontotemporal Dementia. She is highly productive (~400 publications) and leads a research program of 100 researchers tackling non-Alzheimer’s neurodegeneration. Prof. Halliday has played a major role in shaping the international standards for neuropathological diagnosis of neurodegenerative diseases, particularly Lewy body diseases, MSA and frontotemporal dementias. Her research has also served as an evidence base for changes in the clinical diagnosis of these patients. Her contributions have been recognized by being named as an NHMRC high achiever (2013), receiving the NHMRC Elizabeth Blackburn Fellowship (Clinical; 2014), by Fellowship of the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences (2014), by the 2016 Cozzarelli Prize for outstanding paper from the National Academy of Sciences USA (2015), by the C. David Marsden Lecture Award from the International Parkinson and Movement Disorder Society (2017), and by being identified as a Highly Cited Researcher by Clarivate Analytics (2018).
ANTHONY E. LANG, MD
“When I began my training in movement disorders, we had little understanding and appreciation of MSA. Dr. Niall Quinn was a co-fellow with me in London and after I returned to Canada in 1982, he began to recognize and describe the spectrum of MSA and the fact that we were often misdiagnosing those patients as having Parkinson’s disease. In fact, he and I jointly cared for patients in clinical trials who later turned out to have MSA. We communicated regularly about his ground-breaking work that put this condition “on the map” and so very early on, I too began to recognize the disorder in my practice. Since then I have been dedicated to the diagnosis and care of patients with MSA but particularly frustrated by how little our treatment has advanced since Dr. Quinn first began to write about the disorder. One of my greatest desires is to see the necessary advances that will allow us to treat patients with MSA more effectively.”
Dr. Anthony E. Lang is Professor and previous Director of the Division of Neurology at the University of Toronto where he holds the Jack Clark Chair for Parkinson’s Disease Research. He is the Director of the Edmond J. Safra Program in Parkinson’s Disease and the Morton and Gloria Shulman Movement Disorders Clinic and holds the Lily Safra Chair in Movement Disorders at the Toronto Western Hospital, University Health Network. He is one of the most highly cited investigators in the field of Movement Disorders with approximately 700 peer-reviewed papers published or in press. Dr. Lang has served the International Parkinson and Movement Disorder Society (MDS) in many capacities: on the MDS Executive Committee as Treasurer from 1988-1992, Secretary from 1996-1998 and then President from 2007- 2009 and Co-Editor-in-Chief of the Movement Disorders Journal between 1996 and 2003 inclusive and in 2014 he was made an Honorary Member of the Society and received the first MDS Pan-American Section Leadership Award in 2017. He has given many named lectures including the MDS Stanley Fahn Lecture and the World Federation of Neurology’s Melvin Yahr lectureship, both in 2011, and the Association of British Neurologists’ Gordon Holmes Lecture in 2015. Among his awards and distinctions he was appointed as an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2010; in 2011 he was elected a Fellow of both the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences and the Royal Society of Canada; in 2014 he received the Scopus Award from the Canadian Friends of Hebrew University for “outstanding contributions to the field of movement disorders” and was elected by the International Parkinson and Movement Disorder Society (MDS) as an Honorary Member “in recognition of his extraordinary contribution to the field of Movement Disorders”; and In 2017 he was the recipient of the first MDS Pan-American Section Leadership Award. In 2018 he received the Weston Brain Institute International Outstanding Achievement Award for work in accelerating the development of therapeutics for neurodegenerative diseases of aging.
PHILLIP A. LOW, MD
“My early interest in autonomic disorders was inspired by James McLeod, and Paul Korner, University of Sydney. Paul introduced me to the baroreflex and Jim introduced me to the splanchnic-mesenteric bed, both key to autonomic regulation of BP. We saw many patients with diabetic and alcoholic neuropathy. They had the similar degree of neuropathy, but diabetics had orthostatic hypotension while alcoholics did not. We tested the hypothesis that diabetics had more widespread autonomic failure that included the splanchnic-mesenteric bed. I wrote a doctoral thesis and the external examiners were Peter Dyck and PK Thomas. That led me to the Mayo Clinic where Peter Dyck and the then Chair, Jack Whisnant, convinced me to stay and develop the autonomic program. By then I got to know Roger Bannister and David Robertson. We agreed that the field of autonomic medicine was truly a Cinderella of medicine (neglected). We strove to bring the field into the mainstream.”
Dr. Phillip A. Low founded the Mayo Autonomic Laboratory which he headed for 24 years. He was Chair of Division of Clinical Neurophysiology and has a named professorship. As a clinician-investigator, his focus over the past 3 decades has been on the pathogenesis and treatment of MSA. These studies have been carried out under an Autonomic Disorders Program Project followed by a MSA Program Project and subsequently within an Autonomic Disorders Rare Disease consortium and individual NIH and FDA grants. Approaches have included defining the natural history of MSA and predictors of survival in the USA, the use of autonomic biomarkers to differentiate MSA from Parkinson’s disease and running randomized clinical trials on MSA. A recent shift in priority is an attempt to identify early MSA and disease activity, adding CSF biomarkers to clinical and imaging biomarkers of prodromal or preclinical MSA as it evolves from pure autonomic failure. At the clinical laboratory level, Dr. Low’s major focus has been on the development of autonomic function platforms. These include invention of the quantitative sudomotor axon reflex test (QSART) and establishing standardized testing of cardiovagal, sudomotor, and adrenergic function that has become the nation’s standard. The program has developed methodology, their validation, and provided normative data for routine autonomic function tests as well as developing a number of instruments to evaluate autonomic function; such as the composite autonomic severity score (CASS), which quantifies deficits correcting for the effects of age and gender, the composite autonomic symptom profile to evaluate symptoms (COMPASS), and an abbreviated version (COMPASS-31) as well as an orthostatic hypotension score. Application of these tools has enabled the evaluation of the severity and distribution of autonomic failure. Recognition has included the David Streeten award (2004) and Irwin Schatz award (2017).
Dr. Phillip A. Low was profiled in Lancet Neurology in 2017: Phillip Low: the autonomic expert