Merit Cudkowicz, MD, MSc
Professor Michael Coleman and Professor Marc Freeman are incredible investigators in the field of axonal health and degeneration and their fundamental discoveries have facilitated drug discovery in this area.
Director, Healey Center for ALS at Mass General
BOSTON—The Sean M. Healey & AMG Center for ALS at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) awarded the first annual Drs. Ayeez and Shelena Lalji & Family ALS Endowed Award for Innovative Healing to Professor Michael Coleman, University of Cambridge and Professor Marc Freeman, Oregon Health & Science University for their excellence in transformative scientific discoveries focused on repair of neurological function in ALS. The award was virtually presented to the team during the 32nd International Symposium on ALS/MND by Merit Cudkowicz, MD, MSc Director of the Healey & AMG Center at Mass General and Drs. Ayeez and Shelena Lalji.
The review committee consisting of clinicians and scientists unanimously selected Freeman and Coleman as the inaugural recipients of the 2021 award for their groundbreaking discovery of key regulators of axonal health and degeneration (NMNATs, SARM1) enabling drug discovery to improve and promote axonal health in ALS and other diseases.
“Professor Michael Coleman and Professor Marc Freeman are incredible investigators in the field of axonal health and degeneration and their fundamental discoveries have facilitated drug discovery in this area. We are excited that they are part of the ALS community and very pleased to honor them with this award,” said Cudkowicz, who is also chief of Department of Neurology at MGH.
“The progress made in this research field since we identified the WldS gene has been greater than anything we could possibly have imagined at the time, and it is especially exciting that the pathway it blocks is now being directly implicated in ALS and other human diseases,” says Coleman. “It is a great honor to receive this award and I hope the attention it brings to Wallerian degeneration research will accelerate the progress already being made towards therapies.”
“It is inspiring to see the field moving forward so quickly and the potential impact that studies of Wallerian degeneration could have on human diseases like ALS coming into focus,” said Freeman. “Studies of WldS/SARM1 are reminders of how fundamental basic research can lead to unexpected and important advances in our understanding of human disease mechanisms. It’s truly an honor to receive this award which the Lalji Family has generously endowed and we hope it stimulates even deeper exploration of axon biology in the context of ALS.”
"When my husband, Dr. Ayeez Lalji, was diagnosed in 2017 we decided, as a family, that we would change our mindset from tragedy to transformation. We are committed to helping transform the management, research, and cure for ALS,” said Dr. Shelena Lalji. “Our foundation, ALS Heroes, will continue to work with world experts to bring solutions for regaining function to all those living with this devastating illness."
The Drs. Ayeez and Shelena Lalji & Family ALS Endowed Award for Innovative Healing is an annual, global prize to recognize an individual or team of investigators for excellence in their transformative scientific discoveries focused on repair of neurological function in ALS. The goal of this prize is to identify therapies and modalities to regain lost function in people living with ALS. To learn more about this $40,000 USD prize and how to nominate an individual or team for the annual award, click here.
For more information about the Sean M. Healey and AMG Center for ALS, please visit the website.