Featured Plenary Lecturers
Nigel Calcutt, PhD
University of California San Diego
Peter J. Dyck Lecture: Diabetic Neuropathy: Light at the end of the Funnel?
Dr. Calcutt took both his B.Sc. in Zoology and Ph.D. Physiology and Pharmacology at Nottingham University, England. Following post-doctoral research in the Department of Pharmacology at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital, London and in the Department of Anesthesiology at the University of California San Diego, he was appointed to the faculty of the Department of Pathology at UC San Diego in 1993, where he has now settled in nicely. Dr. Calcutt first began studying nerve damage caused by diabetes as an undergraduate, with a largely unsuccessful, but nevertheless entertaining and informative, attempt to generate diabetic chickens in the laboratory of the esteemed ornithologist Professor David Tomlinson. Undeterred by the pitiful paucity of pre-diabetic poultry, he has continued to investigate mechanisms of diabetic neuropathy and neuropathic pain throughout his career, with a particular interest in translational studies. Dr. Calcutt is also a co-founder of the biotechnology company WinSanTor Inc. and the non-profit organization Diabetes Research Connection.
Felipe A. Court, PhD
Center for Integrative Biology, Universidad Mayor, Chile
J.W. Griffin Lecture: The Schwan Cell – Associated Secretory Phenotype as a Therapeutic Target for Nerve Repair
Felipe A. Court received his PhD at Edinburgh University under the supervision of Dr. Peter Brophy and Dr. Richard Ribchester, working on fundamental parameters that regulates conduction velocity in the nervous system. Under an EMBO postdoctoral fellowship he then worked in demyelinating conditions and in vitro models for neuron-glia interaction in the laboratories of Dr. Laura Feltri and Dr. Larry Wrabetz at the San Raffaele Scientific Institute, Milano. In 2008, Court joined the Department of Physiology at Catholic University in Chile to study transfer of genetic material between glial cells and neurons. In 2016, Court moved to Universidad Mayor (Chile) as a Full Professor and become Director of the Center for Integrative Biology, and principal investigator of the Center for Geroscience, Brain health and Metabolism (GERO). In his lab, Court is working with mouse models of neurodegenerative conditions, including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson, as well as glia-derived inflammatory events in the CNS during ageing, studying the molecular mechanisms associated to axonal degeneration. In addition, his group is studying transfer of genetic material (mRNA and miRNA) from glia to neurons via exosomes, and the impact of this process in axonal regeneration and cell senescence.
Patrik Ernfors, PhD
Jonathan Pembroke Lecture: Transduction of light touch and mechanical pain by Sensory Schwann cells
Dr. Ernfors received his Ph.D. in Molecular Neurobiology in 1991 at Karolinska Institutet, under supervision of Professor Håkan Persson. After postdoctoral studies with Professor Rudolf Jaenisch at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, Boston, Dr. Ernfors returned to Sweden as a member of the junior faculty at Karolinska Institutet in 1994. He became professor of Tissue Biology at the Karolinska Institutet in 1999. Among many academic functions, Dr. Ernfors has served as head of the Department of Medical Biochemistry and Biophysics, as member of the Board of Research at Karolinska Institutet and as editor at Science Advances. He is a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and the Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet.
Kleopas Kleopa, MD, FAAN
The Cyprus Institute of Neurology and Genetics
P.K. Thomas Lecture: Gene Therapies for Inherited Demyelinating Neuropathies
Dr. Kleopa is a Professor and Senior Neurologist at the Cyprus Institute of Neurology and Genetics. He cares for patients with inherited and other neuromuscular diseases. He coordinates the Center for Neuromuscular Disorders delivering multidisciplinary clinical care and providing cutting edge therapeutics. Dr. Kleopa also leads the Neuroscience Department focusing on translational research. His research group has made significant contributions to the understanding of neurological disease mechanisms and to the development of cell-targeted gene therapies for inherited neuropathies and leukodystrophies. His work has been recognized by numerous prestigious Awards including the European Academy of Neurology Investigator Award and the Cyprus National Distinguished Researcher Award. He is a Board Member of the International Charcot-Marie-Tooth and Related Disorders Consortium. He also serves as Member of the Scientific Advisory Boards of the USA CMT Association and of the Gilbert Foundation Neurofibromatosis Gene Therapy Initiative.
Charlotte Sumner, MD
Johns Hopkins Medicine
Anita Harding Lecture: The Role of Blood Neural Barriers in Motor Nerve Degeneration
Dr. Sumner is a Professor of Neurology and Neuroscience at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Dr. Sumner cares for patients with genetically-mediated neuromuscular diseases and co-directs the Johns Hopkins Muscular Dystrophy Association Care Center, the Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA), and the Charcot-Marie-Tooth (CMT) clinics, which deliver multidisciplinary clinical care, engage in international natural history studies, and provide cutting edge therapeutics. Dr. Sumner’s laboratory research focuses on the genetic and cellular pathogenesis of motor neuron and peripheral nerve disorders with particular attention to identification of disease genes, characterization of molecular and cellular disease mechanisms, and preclinical development of therapeutics. Her work has been recognized by elected membership in the American Society of Clinical Investigators and the American Association of Physicians.
Carla Taveggia, PhD
San Raffaele Scientific Institute
Richard and Mary Bunge Lecture: Molecular Mechanisms Controlling PNS Myelin Formation and Maintenance
Dr. Taveggia is Director of the Division of Neuroscience at San Raffaele Hospital, in Milan, Italy. She graduated in Biology at the University of Milan and obtained her Ph.D. in Molecular and Cellular Biology at the Open University London. Dr. Taveggia’s laboratory research focuses on understanding the molecular mechanisms controlling myelin formation and axo-glial interaction in development and in disease. Her studies led to the identification of Neuregulin1 type III as the key instructive signal for PNS myelination. Given the remarkable implications underpinning the cross talk between glial cells and axons in physiological and pathological settings, studies in Dr. Taveggia’s laboratory are of immediate translation towards the development of effective treatments for all de- and dysmyelinating disorders in which this interaction is compromised.
Her work has been recognized by numerous prestigious awards, including the P.K. Thomas Award of the PNS Society. She serves as a Member of the Scientific Advisory Boards of the USA CMTRF Association.
Pieter van Doorn, MD, PhD
Erasmus MC University Medical Center
Arthur K. Asbury/Presidential Lecture: Improve the Lives of People with Peripheral Neuropathies
After studying medicine at the Erasmus University in Rotterdam, I did research at the Department of Immunohematology in Leiden. In Rotterdam I trained as a neurologist and also obtained my PhD. Since 1991 I have been working at Erasmus MC as a neurologist with a special interest in patients with neuromuscular diseases. I am a trainer for neurologists who want to specialize in neuromuscular diseases and recently elected president of the Peripheral Nerve Society (PNS).
My scientific research mainly focuses on finding a better treatment for Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) and chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy (CIDP). Drug trials have been set up, including the current SID trial (in GBS) and the DRIP trial (in CIDP). Within the Center for lysosomal and metabolic diseases (the ‘Pompe center’), our team conducts research into Pompe disease, the first treatable hereditary muscle disease. In addition, we are conducting research into the occurrence of polyneuropathy in a large epidemiological (population) study in Rotterdam, the ERGO study. With this research we try to find causes for the development of chronic axonal polyneuropathy.