Brain Sciences


Professor Alan Thompson wins the 2020 Sobek Prize

5 January 2021

Professor Alan Thompson, Dean of the UCL Faculty of Brain Sciences, has been awarded the 2020 Sobek Prize for his research efforts in the field of multiple sclerosis (MS).

Alan Thompson

The Sobel Research Prize of 100,000 Euros (the highest in Europe) is given by the German National MS Society and the MS Society of Baden-Württemberg (the AMSEL).

The research achievements of Professor Thompson are highly regarded by the global MS community. He has focused his lengthy career on the care and treatment of people with MS, especially primary progressive MS, where he was instrumental in using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to determine criteria for diagnosis.

He and his co-workers enhanced the diagnostic MS criteria first established by his former mentor, the late Professor W. Ian McDonald at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery, London which extended the criteria of all forms in MS by establishing more precise definitions. The enhanced McDonald criteria now form the backbone of all randomised prospective clinical treatment trials worldwide, allowing better differentiation between secondary progressive and primary progressive MS.

His work has opened the way to understanding the complexities of progressive forms of MS. This includes his work on the advancement of non-pharmaceutical approaches, such as rehabilitation strategies, for treating symptoms of MS, and developing measures for mobility, spasticity (stiff muscles), pain, and other symptoms and the impacts of disability.

Professor Thompson contributes widely to the global MS community as a teacher, mentor, volunteer leader and advisor. He has led and served on national and international scientific boards and committees, including a leader of the International Progressive MS Alliance. The Alliance is a global collaboration that brings together the force of 19 MS societies, multiple donors and foundations, and many researchers, for which he has served as the founding scientific chair.

He is the outgoing chair of the influential International Advisory Committee on Clinical Trials in Multiple Sclerosis, a body that works to provide perspective and guidance in areas of interest to planning and implementing clinical trials for new agents for the treatment of MS.

Professor Thompson has published many research articles in high-ranking scientific journals and was the 2017 recipient of the John Dystel Prize for MS Research given by the National MS Society (USA).