This year’s Sheila Essey Award for ALS Research recipient is Jeremy Shefner, M.D., Ph.D. Dr. Shefner has served as a principal investigator for numerous ALS trials, and his leadership in clinical research has been instrumental in accelerating the pace and improving the quality of clinical trials for the disease.
Since 1996, The ALS Association and the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) have presented this prestigious award to honor and acknowledge an individual who is making significant contributions in research for the cause, treatment, prevention, or cure for ALS. This award is made possible through the generosity of the Essey Family Fund, in memory of Sheila Essey, who battled ALS for 10 years and died from the disease in 2004. Past recipients have used the funds to continue ALS research or to support promising young scientists on their research teams.
“We are very excited to recognize Dr. Shefner’s tremendous contributions and are delighted that he is this year’s recipient of the Sheila Essey Award,” said Lucie Bruijn, Ph.D., M.B.A., Chief Scientist at The ALS Association.
“I am greatly honored to be this year’s Sheila Essey award recipient and appreciate the roles that Mr. Essey, the AAN, and The ALS Association have played in supporting ALS research," said Dr. Shefner. “The ALS Association has been an active partner in promoting clinical research in ALS and has funded much of the work that has led to my receiving this award.”
Earlier in his career, Dr. Shefner developed expertise in electrodiagnostic medicine and used that knowledge to develop motor unit number estimate (MUNE) as an objective biomarker to track ALS disease progression. MUNE is now used in several ALS clinical trials, and the techniques he developed have become standard for its application in the field.
In 1995, Dr. Shefner co-founded the Northeast ALS Clinical Trials Consortium (NEALS) along with Merit Cudkowicz, M.D., M.Sc., to coordinate ALS clinical trials among nine centers in the northeastern United States. Today, NEALS includes more than 100 member sites across North America and elsewhere. In recognition of the vital work done by NEALS, The Association’s Translational Research Advancing Therapy for ALS (TREAT ALS™) program has provided support for its programs for the past six years.
Dr. Shefner has also been the principal investigator of numerous ALS trials, most recently leading a multinational, double-blind Phase II trial involving the use of the skeletal muscle activator for Cytokinetics’ drug tirasemtiv. Tirasemtiv increases muscle sensitivity to calcium release. In initial trials, this drug’s function involved increasing muscle force, potentially aiding activities of daily living for people with ALS.
Dr. Shefner will receive this award on May 1 at the AAN’s annual meeting in Philadelphia. Pa.