Oct. 24, 2022

UCalgary scholar receives $1M toward new research into multiple sclerosis

Peter Stys wins first Hopewell M.I.N.D. prize
Mr. Sanders Lee and Dr. Peter Stys
Philanthropist Sanders Lee, right, congratulates Hopewell M.I.N.D. prizewinner Peter Stys. Adrian Shellard, for the University of Calgary

Dr. Peter Stys, MD, a professor at the University of Calgary, is the first winner of the $1-million Hopewell M.I.N.D. Prize. His research project was selected by an international panel of experts, including representatives from Harvard Medical School, the Weizmann Institute of Science, and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

The judges evaluated the top three finalists on the potential impact of their proposed research projects. The winning project explores the non-immune role of B cells in the pathogenesis of multiple sclerosis (MS).

“I have deep gratitude to the Hotchkiss Brain Institute and Sanders Lee for supporting our science — it is a research topic for which it is difficult to find support otherwise,” says Stys. “The M.I.N.D. Prize is an incredible initiative and has given my lab a huge opportunity to conduct transformative research in medicine.”

Sanders Lee gives remarks at the Hopewell M.I.N.D. Prize

Sanders Lee gives remarks at the Hopewell M.I.N.D. Prize announcement.

Adrian Shellard, for the University of Calgary

The Hopewell M.I.N.D. (Maximizing Innovation in Neuroscience Discovery) Prize was created in 2021 through a $10-million commitment from Calgarian Sanders Lee. The prize aims to spark innovation through supporting cutting-edge research at the Hotchkiss Brain Institute (HBI).

“What defines an entrepreneurial mindset, whether in research or in the community,” says Lee, “is the willingness to take chances and go for a high-impact outcome. The M.I.N.D. Prize brings these high-impact ideas to Calgary and provides opportunities for potential lifesaving discoveries for mankind.”

As winner of the 2022 prize, Stys plans to use the award to drive research in the study of B cells from MS patients, as well as look at the role of the Epstein Barr virus in the chronic disease. Stys aims to determine the role of the virus in the transformation of B cells into toxin-producing factories that take up residence in the central nervous system.

“It is remarkable, the possibilities for amazing impact that will come out of this award,” says Hotchkiss Brain Institute Director Dr. David Park, PhD. “There is so much potential for unique discovery.”

The two runners-up for the prize were Dr. Garnette Sutherland, MD, with his project CellARM, a micro-robotic system for data driven surgery; and Dr. Minh Dang Nguyen, PhD, who is looking at the connection between the gut microbiome and the brain lymphatic system in neurodegenerative disease.

The Hopewell M.I.N.D. Prize competition for the 2022-23 year will open soon. Learn more about the Hopewell M.I.N.D. Prize.

Peter Stys is a professor in the Department of Clinical Neurosciences in the Cumming School of Medicine, and a member of the Hotchkiss Brain Institute.