David A. Hafler, MD, professor of neurology at the Yale School of Medicine, was chosen by a committee of his peers to receive the National Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Society/American Academy of Neurology’s 2010 John Dystel Prize for MS Research. Hafler was honored for fundamental discoveries related to MS in fields such as immunology and genetics and for bringing clinical importance to basic science findings. The $15,000 prize was presented at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology in Toronto.
“Dr. Hafler is the quintessential physician-scientist,” Vijay Kuchroo, PhD, professor of neurology for the Immunology Program at Harvard University Medical School, stated in a news release. “He has been a leader in elucidating the cause of multiple sclerosis with the rapid translation of those findings to novel therapies. He has consistently led the field in his ground breaking experiments, rapidly applying new technologies and his insights into a better understanding of the pathophysiology of MS.”
Hafler was the first to provide evidence that circulating T cells migrated into the brain and spinal cord. His laboratory consistently developed novel methods of studying T cells and was among the first to apply the techniques of T cell cloning, by which researchers can amplify and study these cells more closely. He went on to demonstrate that myelin-reactive T cells are activated in people with MS while in subjects without MS, they are in a resting stage. Hafler also was among the first to demonstrate a defect in the function of regulatory T cells in people with MS.
His efforts have propelled MS genetics research forward exponentially. In 2003, he put together a team to successfully compete for the Palmer Collaborative MS Research Center Award — a MS Targeted Haplotype Project from the Society to pool expertise and resources in attempts to speed work toward discovering MS genes.
Hafler’s broad range of expertise is evident in his contributions to the scientific community. He has authored or co-authored more than 300 publications relating to MS, autoimmunity and medical genetics. He is highly sought after as a speaker and planner of numerous international meetings relating to these fields.