This year’s Barancik Prize for Innovation in MS Research has been awarded to Sergio E. Baranzini, PhD, for his pioneering efforts to apply Big Data to understanding the origins of multiple sclerosis and advancing pathways to potential cures.
A geneticist, neuroimmunologist, and data scientist at the University of California, San Francisco, Prof. Baranzini is part of a new generation of scientists who are integrating massive amounts of data being generated by advanced technologies to understand the complex causes of MS and develop more precise approaches to stopping the disease. He said of the recognition, “I hope that this accolade will inspire a fresh wave of collaborative researchers in the MS field to take on the remaining crucial challenges in our quest to stop, reverse, and end MS.”
The Power of Collaboration
Key to Dr. Branzini’s trailblazing endeavors are global collaborations. For example, he established an international study to discover the role that gut bacteria play in the triggering, progression, and response to treatment of MS. It’s the world’s largest microbiome study in MS or any other autoimmune condition, and emerging findings offer hope for new approaches such as probiotics or diet to improve the course of MS.
Dr. Baranzini is also part of team that recently published a groundbreaking paper on the largest study ever to understand the genetic basis of MS progression. The analysis identified gene variants linked to faster MS progression, confirmed the role of tobacco smoke in worsening MS, and provides new clues to developing therapies to stop MS.
“Professor Baranzini has the vision and creativity to apply the power of global collaborations and big data to tackle complex questions surrounding multiple sclerosis,” said Bruce Bebo, PhD, Executive Vice President of Research Programs at the National MS Society, of this year’s awardee. “He is truly a trailblazer whose important contributions are driving progress in understanding multiple sclerosis and translating them to advance pathways to MS cures.”
Driving Progress, Recognizing Innovation
The Barancik Prize for Innovation in MS Research was established by Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation to inspire new ideas and accelerate new treatments for stopping MS. Awarded annually, it recognizes an exceptional scientist or team of scientists whose work in MS research has demonstrated outstanding innovation and originality. The honor, which comes with $100,000 to be used at the discretion of the recipient, is considered the most prestigious award of its kind in the MS scientific community. The prize is administered by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
The Barancik Prize is intended for early- to mid-career MS researchers, providing recognition and funding for innovators who will lead the next generation of top experts in the field. The disease was close to the hearts of Chuck and Margie Barancik, who often noted that they dreamed of a world someday without MS.
To learn more about this year’s Barancik Prize winner, go here.
To learn more about the award and past recipients, go here.