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Canadian neurologist earns prestigious US research prize


London, ON – A leading Canadian neurologist and researcher is taking home a prestigious award from the American Academy of Neurology for his outstanding contribution to worldwide ALS research.

Dr Michael Strong, a Scientist at Robarts Research Institute and Lawson Health Research Institute, will receive the $25,000 Sheila Essey Award for ALS Research at an awards ceremony on April 12 in Miami. He is also professor and co-chair of clinical neurological science at the University of Western Ontario’s Schulich School of Medicine and co-chief of neurology at London Health Sciences Centre.

Over the past 15 years, he has made significant findings on the neurochemistry involved in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease), a progressive neurodegenerative disease that attacks nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord resulting in muscle weakness and ultimately death, usually within less than five years. Most recently, he has pioneered research in ALS-related dementia.

“This is a tremendous honour not only for me but for the members of my lab who have worked toward understanding this devastating illness. It is also a tribute to the ALS community of southwestern Ontario, which has long supported our research,” says Dr Strong, who holds the Arthur J Hudson Chair in ALS Research, an endowed chair made possible by a $5 million gift from patient Michael Halls, who died recently from ALS. “This award recognizes our research into the fundamental biology of ALS, and particularly our understanding of the involvement of ALS that occurs outside of the motor system and which gives rise to cognitive impairments. This whole avenue of research stemmed from the financial support provided to us by the London community, leading to one of the more novel and fundamental discoveries regarding ALS to have come forward in the last decade or so.”

Dr Strong is only the second Canadian to receive the Sheila Essey award, which was established 10 years ago to honour an individual actively engaged in ALS research who is making significant contributions in research for the cause, treatment, prevention or cure for ALS.

“Dr Strong is the quintessential ‘triple-threat’ in medicine: he’s a superb physician, an excellent administrator for the university and hospital and an outstanding researcher at Robarts,” says Dr Mark Poznansky, Robarts president & scientific director. “He’s dedicated to providing the best care for his patients and his lab leads the field in the search for greater understanding of ALS.”