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Symposium award winners announced

The first session of the Symposium is not only a chance to welcome all delegates, but also a time to acknowledge winners of various awards. These recognize individuals who had made a difference in the understanding of MND and to the lives of people affected by the disease.

The International Alliance Humanitarian Award

Unlike most awards at the Symposium, the winners of the Humanitarian Award are recognized for their internationally significant non-scientific contribution for people affected by MND.

This year’s award recognized three people behind the event that changed the course of MND history, raising over $220 million worldwide – the Ice Bucket Challenge. Pete Frates, Patrick Quinn and Anthony Senerchia Jr. all showed their dedication by spreading the Challenge across the world, turning it into a viral event that helped to not only raise funds but awareness of this relatively rare disease. Presented by the chair of the International Alliance of ALS/MND Associations, Steve Bell, the award was accepted by Pete Frates’ mother, Nancy Frates.

The International Alliance Forbes Norris Award

Named after the neurologist Dr Forbes Norris, the purpose of this Award is to encourage researchers in advancing the management and understanding of MND. Awarded since 1994, this year’s award was given to Dr Merit Cudkowicz.

Dr Cudkowicz, the chair of Department of Neurology at the Massachusetts General Hospital, is a leader in MND research and a passionate patient advocate. Aside from seeing patients in clinics, she has been involved in mentoring young researchers in MND clinical trials and co-founding the Northeast ALS Consortium (NEALS) – an international conference for leaders in research and clinical care in MND.

The Institute Paulo Gontijo Award

This award, named after the founder of the Brasil-based Institute, Mr Paulo Gontijo, who was living with MND, was established nine years ago in partnership with the International Alliance of ALS/MND Associations and the MND Association. Judged by an international jury committee of established scientists, the winner also presents their latest research during the joint opening session. This year’s award was presented to Dr Marka Van Blitterswijk, Assistant Professor of Neuroscience at Mayo Clinic (Florida, USA).

The Dutch researcher has helped increase the knowledge of, and revealed targets for, new treatment strategies and prognostic tests for MND.  Dr Blitterswijk leads a team of scientists working on the genetics of MND and has published more than 50 articles in her field of neuroscience. Her patient-focused work includes studying a mutation in the C9orf72 gene and trying to understand the variability of MND. These include the age at which symptoms first occur, presence of dementia, disease progression and survival.

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