Featured Speakers

Arthur K Asbury Lecture (GBS/CIDP/ Inflammatory)
Kevin O' Connor, Yale University, New Haven CT 


Dr. Kevin C. O’Connor is an Associate Professor of Neurology at Yale School of Medicine. He earned his Ph.D. in Biochemistry at Tufts Medical School, then took his post-doctoral training in neuroimmunology at Harvard Medical School. He is a career academic neuroimmunologist with a special interest in human translational immunology, in particular B cell pathobiology. His laboratory has a long-standing interest in studying the roles of B cells and autoantibodies in autoimmune neurologic diseases such as multiple sclerosis (MS), myasthenia gravis (MG) and chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyradiculoneuropathy (CIDP). The laboratory’s recent investigative work was focused on understanding the immune dysregulation associated with clinically distinct forms of CIDP. To that end, they described abnormalities in the CIDP B cell repertoire using high-throughput, next generation sequencing approaches. Their current focus is on further defining the mechanisms of autoantibody production in CIDP by identifying and isolating and the autoantibody-producing cells.


Richard Bunge Lecture (Biology of Nerve)
Erika Holzbaur, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia

    Our laboratory is focused on the microtubule-based motor cytoplasmic dynein and its activator dynactin. Dynein and dynactin are required for vesicular trafficking, mitotic spindle assembly, and development of polarity. We are interested in mechanisms of force production and motor function, mechanisms of cargo coupling and regulation, effects of dynein and dynactin on dynamics of the cytoskeleton, and the analysis of neurodegenerative diseases resulting from impairments in dynein/dynactin function. Disruptions in dynein/dynactin function cause motor neuron degeneration and muscle atrophy, leading to motor neuron diseases similar to ALS. Approaches in the lab include in vitro motility assays, cellular transfection assays, live cell microscopy, and development and characterization of transgenic mouse models for motor neuron disease.


Peter J Dyck Lecture(Diabetes and Clinical Topics) 
Peter McNaughton, Kings College London, London UK

    Peter McNaughton was born in New Zealand, where he studied Physics at the University of Auckland. He was lecturer in Physiology at the University of Cambridge from 1978 to 1991, and moved to London in 1991 as Head of Physiology at King’s College London. In 1999 he moved to Cambridge as Head of the Department of Pharmacology and in 2013 returned to King’s College London as Professor of Pharmacology.
He has worked in several areas of neuroscience, mainly in the cellular basis of sensations – vision, pain and magnetic sensation. A major interest of his lab is the molecular and cellular basis of pain.  A second major area is in the molecular basis of thermal sensation and control of body temperature. He has initiated two drug development projects, both arising from discoveries in his lab.


Jack Griffin Lecture (Regeneration) 
David Parkinson, Plymouth University School of Medicine and Dentistry


David Parkinson studied for his PhD at the MRC Clinical Sciences Centre in London before a fellowship at the CRUK London Research Institute. He then had a second post-doc in the lab of Profs Rhona Mirsky and Kristjan Jessen at UCL where he began to work on developmental regulation of myelination in the PNS. In 2007, he moved to the Peninsula Medical School in Plymouth and started his own lab to continue his research on Schwann cell biology. Current research interests in the lab include the roles of inhibitory regulators of myelination, such as Sox2, the tumour suppressor Merlin and regulation of PNS repair through Hippo signalling and the biology of human schwannoma tumours. Recent data from the lab has shown that the Merlin tumour suppressor in Schwann cells is absolutely vital for efficient generation of the specialised  repair Schwann cell following injury. Loss of Merlin leads to a complete failure of PNS repair and PNS injury may act as an initiator of schwannoma tumour formation. Genetic analysis has shown that abnormal activation  of Hippo signalling in Schwann cells underlies the failure of regeneration in Merlin null nerves. Current efforts in the lab are to identify Merlin/Hippo targets that may be modulated to improve PNS repair following injury.


PK Thomas (Inherited Neuropathies)
Alessandra Bolino, San Raffaele Scientific Institute, Milan, Italy 


Alessandra Bolino has been trained in Medical Genetics (PhD in Human Genetics and postdoctoral training at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics, in Oxford, UK). During this period, she mapped and identified several disease genes by linkage analysis and positional cloning. She has been awarded as an Assistant (2001) and Associate Telethon Scientist (2006) and established her laboratory at the Ospedale San Raffaele in Milan, Italy, where she is the Head of the Human Inherited Neuropathies Research Unit since 2008.

Research in Bolino’s laboratory follows a multidisciplinary approach including genetics, biochemistry and cell biology and seeks to i) identify new genes in human responsible for inherited peripheral neuropathies and lower motor neuron diseases; ii) elucidate how defects in these genes provoke human diseases; iii) clarify the molecular mechanisms that regulate membrane trafficking and homeostasis during myelin biogenesis using in vivo and ex vivo models of myelination; and finally iv) exploit these mechanisms to design therapeutical strategies to ameliorate PNS diseases. 


Pembroke Lecture
Craig Blackstone, NINDS Cell Biology Section, Bethesda, MD


Craig Blackstone is Senior Investigator and Cell Biology Section Chief within the NINDS Neurogenetics Branch, Director of the NIH MD-PhD Partnership Training Program, Visiting Scientist at HHMI Janelia Research Campus, and Vice President of the American Neurological Association.  He received B.S./M.S. degrees from the University of Chicago (1987) and M.D./Ph.D. degrees from Johns Hopkins (1994). After a neurology residency in the Harvard-Longwood Neurology Program, he pursued clinical fellowship training in movement disorders at Massachusetts General Hospital and postdoctoral research training in neurobiology with Dr. Morgan Sheng at Harvard Medical School and HHMI. In 2001, Dr. Blackstone joined the NINDS Intramural Research Program. He will discuss his laboratory’s studies of converging cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying inherited neuropathies and spastic paraplegias, with a particular emphasis on emerging organelle shaping mechanisms.

Keynote Speaker: Arthur Burghes

Professor Burghes received his Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of London. He performed his graduate work at the Hammersmith Hospital which lies adjacent to Wormwood Scrubs Her Majesty’s prison service, which he did not attend. He then moved to the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto under the direction of Dr. Worton and was involved in cloning the dystrophin gene. He then moved to take up an Assistant Professor position in the Department of Biological Chemistry and Pharmacology where he started his work on Spinal Muscular Atrophy. At The Ohio State University, he has risen through the ranks to Professor, irritated administrators, and undertaken research in SMA that has led to the current era of treatments. In particular he was involved in early mapping studies to identify the location of the gene, characterization of the role of SMN2 in modifying the disease phenotypes as well as the development of animal model of SMA along with the testing of various therapeutic approaches.


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