Hauser Wins Taubman Prize for Multiple Sclerosis Discovery

Stephen L. Hauser, MD, will receive the 2017 Taubman Prize for Excellence in Translational Medical Research for his paradigm-changing discoveries that paved the way for a highly effective drug for the treatment of multiple sclerosis (MS). 

Hauser, a physician-researcher, is director of the UCSF Weill Institute for Neurosciences and the Robert A. Fishman Distinguished Professor and chair of the Department of Neurology at UC San Francisco.

In MS, the immune system attacks the protective myelin covering around nerve cells, blocking transmission of impulses and leading to disabling symptoms such as visual impairment, weakness, numbness, and loss of coordination. Thanks in large part to Hauser and his colleagues, scientists now know that immune cells known as B cells lead the attack on the myelin membrane.

Over decades of research, Hauser and his team refined this theory, eventually testing drugs that target B cells. In a clinical trial of one such medicine, the beneficial results in MS stunned even the researchers. Subsequent studies led to development of ocrelizumab, a B-cell depleting drug made by Genentech that is safer and easier to administer to patients. Ocrelizumab was approved in March 2017 by the Food and Drug Administration as a new option for the more than 400,000 Americans with MS. It is also the first drug shown to be effective against primary progressive MS, the most disabling form of the disease.

“We salute Dr. Hauser for his persistence and original thinking about the causes and treatments of this life-altering disease,” said Eva L. Feldman, MD, PhD, director of the Taubman Institute, in a statement. “He exemplifies the brilliant and devoted physician-researcher who is motivated by concern for his patients to spend years, even decades, in the lab seeking novel treatments that will bring new hope to millions of people worldwide.”

The Taubman Prize was established in 2012 by the University of Michigan to recognize outstanding translational medical research. It includes a $100,000 award and is presented annually to a non-University of Michigan clinician-scientist who has done the most to transform laboratory discoveries into clinical applications for patients suffering from disease.