ALS researcher Merit Cudkowicz to receive MDA legacy award

Award will be presented during the 2023 MDA Clinical and Scientific Conference

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by Mary Chapman |

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Renowned neurologist and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) investigator Merit Cudkowicz, MD, of Massachusetts General Hospital has been named this year’s recipient of the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) Legacy Award for Achievement in Clinical Research.

The award, which recognizes outstanding accomplishments in neuromuscular research, will be presented March 20 at the 2023 MDA Clinical and Scientific Conference in Dallas.

Registration is open for in-person and virtual attendance of the March 19-22 event, which this year will focus on emerging technologies in genetic medicine.

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“We at the Muscular Dystrophy Association are extremely proud to honor Dr. Cudkowicz with the 2023 MDA Legacy Award for Achievement in Clinical Research,” Sharon Hesterlee, PhD, chief research officer at MDA, said in a press release from the organization.

“Dr. Cudkowicz’s work throughout her career has been innovative and has led to incredible progress in our ability to test new therapies for ALS efficiently through clinical platform trials to accelerate treatments. Through her collaboration with researchers, medical teams, and patients at the center of it all, her work has inspired hope and the development of new therapies,” she said. “We’re proud to have been a supporter of her work since she was a fellow, and to continue to support our shared vision for a world without ALS.”

The award will be presented by Cudkowicz’s long-time mentor Stanley H. Appel, MD, a researcher and neurologist who serves as the director of MDA’s ALS Care Center at Houston Methodist Neurological Institute.

“It’s an honor for me to receive the 2023 MDA Legacy Award for Achievement in Clinical Research, particularly at the MDA Clinical & Scientific Conference in front of the global neuromuscular community. I’m grateful as well to have this presentation by one of my mentors, Dr. Stan Appel,” Cudkowicz said. “I received my very first grant from the Muscular Dystrophy Association, and Stan reviewed the first grants I ever wrote in ALS — and both have supported me throughout my career.

“I’m grateful for the continued commitment and dedication to finding a cure for ALS by the Muscular Dystrophy Association and for this recognition of the work we’re doing to accelerate treatments and find a cure to end this devastating disease.”

Innovations in ALS treatment

Director of the Sean M. Healey & AMG Center for ALS, Cudkowicz is chief of neurology at Massachusetts General Hospital and is the Julieanne Dorn professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School. She is one of the founders and a previous co-chair of the Northeast ALS Consortium, a group of more than 134 clinical sites globally conducting collaborative ALS investigations.

Through innovations, Cudkowicz has helped accelerate development ALS treatments, including tofersen, the first antisense oligonucleotide therapy for ALS associated with SOD1 mutations. She also has helped develop adaptive clinical trial designs and is principal investigator of the Clinical Coordination Center for NeuroNEXT.

In addition, Cudkowicz launched the HEALEY ALS Platform Trial (NCT04297683), the first clinical trial in ALS testing multiple treatment candidates simultaneously with a goal of accelerating the development of therapies.

A mentor to many young neurologists in the field of ALS, Cudkowicz received an undergraduate degree in chemical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and a medical degree from Harvard Medical School.

“The Healey & AMG Center for ALS at Mass General Hospital has worked collaboratively with MDA since the day we were formed and every advance in ALS has come with the support of MDA, including critical support of our clinic for multidisciplinary care, personalized care for patients and families, support for the Northeast ALS Consortium and innovative support for platform trials in ALS for patients,” said Cudkowicz. “This award helps shine a spotlight on our mission to accelerate how treatments are developed and find cures for people with ALS.”