June is Myasthenia Gravis Awareness Month

About Us

Our mission is to empower people living with neuromuscular diseases to live longer, more independent lives.

Muscular Dystrophy Association Announces Recipient of 2023 MDA Legacy Award for Achievement in Clinical Research is Merit Cudkowicz, MD, MSC, Renowned Neurologist and Clinical Researcher in ALS

The Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) today announced Merit Cudkowicz, MD, MSC, a renowned neurologist and clinical researcher in ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, aka Lou Gehrig’s disease, or motor neuron disease) from Massachusetts General Hospital, will receive the 2023 MDA Legacy Award for Achievement in Clinical Research. The award will be presented at the 2023 MDA Clinical & Scientific Conference on Monday, March 20, by Stanley H. Appel, MD, longtime mentor of Dr. Cudkowicz, and MDA’s ALS Care Center Director at Houston Methodist Neurological Institute. The MDA Legacy Award for Achievement in Clinical Research is an annual recognition for outstanding accomplishments in neuromuscular disease research. The presentation will take place in-person in Dallas, Texas and via live stream. Registration is open for both in-person and virtual registration here. View the full agenda here.

A woman in a green shirt sitting in an office chair.
Muscular Dystrophy Association announces 2023 MDA Legacy Award for Achievement in Clinical Research recipient, Merit Cudkowicz, MD, MSC, renowned neurologist and clinical researcher in ALS.

"We at the Muscular Dystrophy Association are extremely proud to honor Dr. Cudkowicz with the 2023 MDA Legacy Award for Achievement in Clinical Research. Dr. Cudkowicz's work throughout her career has been innovative and has led to incredible progress in our ability to test new therapies for ALS efficiently through clinical platform trials to accelerate treatments," said Sharon Hesterlee, Ph.D., Chief Research Officer, MDA. "Through her collaboration with researchers, medical teams, and patients at the center of it all, her work has inspired hope and the development of new therapies. We're proud to have been a supporter of her work since she was a fellow, and to continue to support our shared vision for a world without ALS."

Two women standing shoulder to shoulder.
2023 MDA Clinical & Scientific Conference Legacy Award Recipient Dr. Merit Cudkowicz pictured with Dr. Sharon Hesterlee, Chief Research Officer, MDA, at a recent ALS focused meeting in Boston, MA.

"It's an honor for me to receive the 2023 MDA Legacy Award for Achievement in Clinical Research, particularly at the MDA Clinical & Scientific Conference in front of the global neuromuscular community. I'm grateful as well to have this presentation by one of my mentors, Dr. Stan Appel," said Dr. Cudkowicz. "I received my very first grant from the Muscular Dystrophy Association, and Stan reviewed the first grants I ever wrote in ALS – and both have supported me throughout my career. I'm grateful for the continued commitment and dedication to finding a cure for ALS by the Muscular Dystrophy Association and for this recognition of the work we're doing to accelerate treatments and find a cure to end this devastating disease. The Healey & AMG Center for ALS at Mass General Hospital has worked collaboratively with MDA since the day we were formed and every advance in ALS has come with the support of MDA, including critical support of our clinic for multidisciplinary care, personalized care for patients and families, support for the Northeast ALS Consortium and innovative support for platform trials in ALS for patients. This award helps shine a spotlight on our mission to accelerate how treatments are developed and find cures for people with ALS."

Throughout the United States, the MDA Care Center Network includes over 150 locations, of which 48 are designated MDA/ALS Care Centers, including Massachusetts General Hospital.

Dr. Appel is the MDA Care Center Director at Houston Methodist Neurological Institute's MDA ALS Research and Clinical Center in Houston. Established in 1982 by Dr. Appel, the center was the first multidisciplinary clinic dedicated to ALS patient care and research in the United States. In addition to serving as Director of the MDA ALS Research and Clinical Center and Emeritus MDA Board Member, Dr. Appel is the Director of the Ann Kimball and John W. Johnson Center for Cellular Therapeutics at Houston Methodist.

As the largest US gathering focused solely on neuromuscular disease, the 2023 MDA Clinical and Scientific Conference will explore the latest research advancements and clinical achievement in the space, with concurrent clinical and scientific sessions. This year's conference will take a particular look at emerging technologies in genetic medicine. The previous recipient of the inaugural MDA Legacy Award for Achievement in Clinical Research in 2022 was Carsten Bönnemann, MD, of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, a division of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

About Merit Cudkowicz, MD, MSC

Dr. Merit Cudkowicz is the Director of the Sean M. Healey & AMG Center for ALS, Chief of Neurology at Mass General, Director, and the Julieanne Dorn Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Cudkowicz's research and clinical activities are dedicated to the study and treatment of people with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). Dr. Cudkowicz is one of the founders and past Co-Chairs of the Northeast ALS Consortium (NEALS), a group of over 134 clinical sites in the United States, Canada, Europe, and the Middle East dedicated to performing collaborative clinical trials and research in ALS. She has brought innovations to accelerate the development of treatments for people with ALS, including a senior role in the first antisense oligonucleotide treatment for a neurological disorder (SOD1 ALS), adaptive trial designs, and a single IRB approach - all with the goal to bring the best treatments forward rapidly. Dr. Cudkowicz is the Principal Investigator of the Clinical Coordination Center for the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke's Neurology Network of Excellence in Clinical Trials (NeuroNEXT). Dr. Cudkowicz launched the first platform trial initiative in ALS, the HEALEY ALS Platform Trial, a program that will greatly accelerate therapy development in ALS.

Dr. Cudkowicz received the American Academy of Neurology 2009 Sheila Essay ALS award, the 2017 Forbes Norris Award from the International MND Alliance, the 2017 Pinnacle Award from the Boston Chamber of Commerce and the 2019 Ray Adams American Neurological Association Award. A dedicated educator, Dr. Cudkowicz mentors many young neurologists in the clinical investigation of ALS and related neurodegenerative disorders. Dr. Cudkowicz completed her undergraduate degree in chemical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and obtained a medical degree in the Health Science and Technology program of Harvard Medical School. She served her internship at Beth Israel Hospital in New York and her neurology residency and fellowship at MGH. She also obtained a master’s degree in Clinical Epidemiology from the Harvard School of Public Health.

About Muscular Dystrophy Association

Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) is the #1 voluntary health organization in the United States for people living with muscular dystrophy, ALS, and related neuromuscular diseases. For over 70 years, MDA has led the way in accelerating research, advancing care, and advocating for the support of our families. MDA's mission is to empower the people we serve to live longer, more independent lives. To learn more visit mda.org and follow MDA on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, LinkedIn, and YouTube.