2012 Sheila Essey Award Recipient Recognized at American Academy of Neurology Conference

April 25, 2012

A clinician scientist with a strong background in molecular cell biology received the 2012 Sheila Essey Award at the 64th Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) in New Orleans on April 24, 2012.  Christopher Shaw, MBChB, M.D., FRACP, from the Institute of Psychiatry (IoP) at King’s College London, University of London, U.K., received the prestigious honor for his research that investigated the genetic basis of ALS.

The $25,000 Award recognizes individuals who have made noteworthy research contributions in the search for the cause, prevention of, and cure for ALS.

Originally trained as a clinical neurologist in New Zealand, Dr. Shaw worked at the European Familial ALS (FALS) Group.  He is currently the director of the Maurice Wohl Clinical Neuroscience Institute at the Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College.

“I am greatly honored to have been selected for this award,” Dr. Shaw said.  “Only through a better understanding of the events that initiate and propagate neurodegeneration can we develop drugs that really alter the course of this terrible disease.”  

Dr. Shaw studied neurobiology and genetics at Cambridge University on a Wellcome Trust Fellowship.  His research doctorate focused on molecular signaling during axonal-glial interactions.  Some of his early work in neurology centered on Cu/Zn dismutase (SOD1) and the collection of a large number of DNA samples.  Subsequent ALS findings include the identification of mutations in familial and sporadic ALS.   Dr. Shaw has collaborated with other renowned ALS researchers including Drs. Nigel Leigh, Ammar Al-Chalabi and Robert Brown.

“The ALS Association is delighted that Dr. Shaw is the Sheila Essey Award recipient,” said ALS Association Chief Scientist Lucie Bruijn, Ph.D.  “His significant contributions to the field, in particular the discovery of TDP43 and FUS mutations, have opened up new avenues to better understand the disease and identify meaningful therapies.”  Prof Shaw’s research group was the first to report in the journal Science that mutations in the genes encoding two RNA binding proteins, TDP-43 and FUS, can cause ALS.

Each year, the American Academy of Neurology and The ALS Association present this award in memory of Sheila Essey, who battled ALS for 10 years and died from the disease in 2004.  The Award is made possible through the generosity of the Essey Family Fund.  Past recipients have utilized the funds to continue ALS research or to support promising young scientists on their research teams. 

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