Dr. Michael Levin will start as the MS research chair this March.
Dr. Michael Levin will start as the MS research chair this March.

New $8.4 million Saskatchewan MS research chair announced

A new $8.4 million U of S Chair in Multiple Sclerosis Clinical Research will lead a drive toward a cure for multiple sclerosis (MS).

Rates of MS, a debilitating disease of the central nervous system, are the highest in the world in Saskatchewan and Canada.

To lead the research program focused on identifying causes of MS and developing new or improved treatments, the U of S has recruited renowned MS researcher Dr. Michael Levin, who will take up the position for a seven-year term in March.

“This recruitment is an important step forward in the effort to increase MS research and improve clinical care for Saskatchewan people with MS,” said Saskatoon University MLA Eric Olauson, on behalf of Minister of Health, Jim Reiter. “This fulfils one of the recommendations made by the MS Advisory Panel last February, and helps build momentum for the participation of Saskatchewan people in clinical research.”

“I’ve dedicated most of my adult life to exploring the causes of MS and the care of people with MS and I am grateful and humbled to be named the inaugural chair,” said Levin, a neurologist and professor in the College of Medicine at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, and Director of the Multiple Sclerosis Center and Laboratory of Viral and Demyelinating Diseases, in Memphis, Tennessee.

“This is a unique opportunity. We will make significant advances in MS by providing world-class care and cutting-edge research, garnering a national and international reputation for excellence.”

Support for the chair is provided by the Saskatoon City Hospital Foundation, the Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation, the MS Society of Canada, the U of S Centennial Enhancement Chair program, as well as the U of S College of Medicine and the Saskatoon Health Region.

Levin will lead a team of researchers, clinicians and students that includes Dr. Katherine Knox, whose research focuses on MS and mobility, and Valerie Verge, director of the Cameco Neuroscience Research Centre, whose research focuses on nerve injury and repair mechanisms. Both are U of S College of Medicine researchers.

“The College of Medicine is proud to be leading this critically important partnership initiative in an area of health research so important for Saskatchewan,” said Dr. Preston Smith, dean of medicine. “Our team will engage locally in discoveries to directly benefit the people of our province, where an estimated 3,500 to 3,700 residents live with MS, while also helping to train our young clinician researchers.”

Levin’s research has focused on the relationship between viruses, autoantibodies and acquired DNA mutations as potential causes of multiple sclerosis. He completed a post-doctoral fellowship with a focus on multiple sclerosis at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. His medical internship and residency training were completed at the combined New York Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center - Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center program in New York City, where he was chief neurology resident. He obtained his medical degree at Pennsylvania State University.
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