Pioneer of Multiple Sclerosis Research Honored

This year’s award of the Betty and David Koetser Foundation for Brain Research was presented to Professor Alastair Compston from the University of Cambridge. He was awarded for his research into the causes of multiple sclerosis and the discovery of new therapies.

Nicole Wenderoth

Alastair Compston
Alastair Compston
For his research on multiple sclerosis neuroscientist Alastair Compston (left) was awarded the Koetser Prize by David Koetser. (Image: Provided)


The work of Alastair Compston and his research group has greatly contributed to better understanding the causes of multiple sclerosis and introducing new therapies. In a global study, the researchers were able to identify genetic risk factors for the disease. Today, it is known that misprogrammed immune cells trigger the pathogenesis of multiple sclerosis.

With the discovery of this mechanism, Alastair Compston and his team were able to develop a key approach to therapy, in which the misguided immune cells are destroyed using drugs.  If treatment is begun early, the flare-ups typical of the disease can be slowed down significantly.

At the annual symposium of the Neuroscience Center Zurich (ZNZ) on 13 September, Alastair Compston presented his latest research findings in his Koetser Memorial Lecture at UZH.

Protective sheaths under attack

In Switzerland more than 10,000 people suffer from multiple sclerosis. The disease of the central nervous system usually occurs in early adulthood. The body’s own immune cells attack the protective sheaths of nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, triggering inflammations. Symptoms can range from loss of balance and impaired vision to paralysis.


Alastair Compston studied medicine in London, where he also completed his doctoral degree. After training to become a neurologist, he joined the University of Wales as professor of neurology and was later appointed professor at the University of Cambridge. He is a former president of the European Neurological Society and of the Association of British Neurologists, and formerly edited the journal Brain

Alastair Compston has won numerous prizes for his research, including the Charcot Award, the K-J Zülch Prize of the Max Planck Society as well as the John Dystel Prize. As professor emeritus, he continues to be associated with the Department of Clinical Neuroscience of the University of Cambridge.

The Betty and David Koetser Foundation

The Betty and David Koetser Foundation for Brain Research was founded in 1993. It supports clinical and basic research in the field of neurology and neuroscience at the University of Zurich. Moreover, the foundation presents its annual award to neuroscientists in recognition of outstanding work.

Nicole Wenderoth is a Professor at ETH Zurich and President of the Board of the Betty and David Koetser Foundation for Brain Research. English translation by Philip Isler, UZH Communications.

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