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Research Steering Council

The Research Steering Council (RSC) is the strategic leadership body for Mission MSA in the areas of research, clinical, and scientific initiatives. The RSC shall oversee the Board-approved research strategic objectives and visions for the organization.

Research Steering Council Members

Nadia Stefanova received her medical degree from the Medical University of Sofia, Bulgaria and the University of Innsbruck, Austria. She went on to complete a PhD in Neuroscience in 2000. Dr. Stefanova joined the Department of Neurology in Innsbruck, where she performed her post-doctoral studies in Experimental Neurology. Dr. Stefanova became Assistant Professor in 2006 and Associate Professor in 2011. In 2020, she was appointed full professor in Translational Neurodegeneration Research at the Medical University of Innsbruck. Dr. Stefanova’s Lab applies variable in vivo and in vitro experimental models of MSA and focuses on the analysis of MSA pathogenesis, target development and preclinical therapeutic screening for MSA and other synucleinopathies. The studies of Dr. Stefanova address the implication of ectopic oligodendroglial aggregation of alpha-synuclein and neuroinflammatory responses in MSA.

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Paul is an Assistant Professor of Neurology, in the division of movement disorders, at Emory University in Atlanta, where he additionally directs their autonomic neurophysiology laboratory. His PhD work and neurology training led to a fascination with the intersection of autonomics, cognition, affect, and motor control. He saw movement disorders as the natural home for this passion very early in his neurology training. As a resident and movement fellow at Emory, Paul noticed that debilitating autonomic symptoms in synucleinopathies, particularly multiple system atrophy (MSA), tend to be poorly understood, underdiagnosed, and undertreated. In order to reverse this trend, he sought formal autonomic training with Roy Freeman and Chris Gibbons at Beth Israel Deaconess/Harvard Medical School. They were incredible role models for developing a multi-pronged research program whose goal, in the end, is to improve diagnostic accuracy and relieve suffering in those with autonomic failure.

Paul’s research involves a multimodal approach toward autonomic physiology, associated biomarkers, and symptoms suffered by those with autonomic failure due to synucleinopathies such as MSA. These include: 1) collaborative studies with Georgia Tech engineers to test the use of wearable cardiovascular sensors to detect pathologic fluctuations in blood pressure; 2) examination of brain-body awareness (interoception) in autonomic failure patients to better understand the presence and absence of autonomic failure symptoms; 3) measuring changes in cerebral oximetry during orthostatic hypotension and supine hypertension; and 4) use of neuroimaging to probe for reliable central neural correlates of autonomic failure in Parkinson disease and MSA. He was honored to receive the Don Summers Memorial Award at the 2022 American Autonomic Society meeting for this latter work.

His most meaningful clinical encounters are with MSA patients and their families. As such, he is delighted to serve as a scientific advisor with Mission MSA in order to help advance research efforts meant to improve the lives of patients afflicted by this condition.

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Dr. Pierre-Olivier Fernagut leads a research team labeled by the French institute for medical research (Inserm) at the University of Poitiers. He received his PhD in 2003 form the University of Bordeaux where he worked on the development of experimental models of MSA under the supervision of Prof. François Tison. He then moved to the department of Neurology at UCLA to investigate interactions between alpha-synuclein and pesticides in the context of Parkinson’s disease under the supervision of Prof. Marie-François Chesselet. In 2007, he was appointed as a full-time research at the French enter for scientific research and resumed his work on MSA with François Tison, Wassilios Meissner and Erwan Bezard. His current research focuses on identifying disease mechanisms, biomarkers and preclinical proofs of concept for MSA. He is a member of the MDS-sponsored MSA study group and serves as the coordinator of the scientific advisory board at ARAMISE, the French association for research and education on MSA. He has authored over 90 publications in the field of movement disorders.

Vikram (Vik) Khurana is Chief of the Division of Movement Disorders at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School. He is Principal Faculty at the Harvard Stem Cell Institute, an Associate Member of the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT and Associate Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School. The Khurana laboratory utilizes proteome-scale molecular mapping tools in conjunction with stem cell models and deep patient phenotyping to better understand the causes and consequences of protein-misfolding in synucleinopathies like Parkinson’s disease and MSA. Dr. Khurana is a medical graduate of the University of Sydney and obtained his Ph.D. in neurobiology from Harvard University. He completed his neurology residency and fellowship at Brigham and Women’s and Massachusetts General Hospitals, and postdoctoral training at MIT’s Whitehead Institute. He led early studies to identify and reverse pathologies in human stem cells derived from PD patients. This work has led to the advancement of novel drugs to clinical trials for Parkinson’s disease, with promise now for other synucleinopathies like MSA. Current translational efforts in his group involve developing patient stratification and innovative clinical-trial approaches for MSA and Parkinson’s disease. Dr Khurana is a past Fulbright Scholar, George C. Cotzias Fellow of the American Parkinson’s Disease Association, Derek-Denny Brown Scholar of the American Neurologic Association, investigator of the Aligning Science Across Parkinson’s Initiative and NYSCF Robertson Stem Cell Investigator. He has co-founded two biotech companies that focus on CNS and neurodegenerative diseases. Dr Khurana was a member of the Board of Directors of Mission MSA (formerly the MSA Coalition) from 2018-2023.

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Dr. Luk is Research Associate Professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Neurodegenerative Disease Research. He received his BSc in Microbiology and Immunology and PhD in Pathology from McGill University. He completed his postdoctoral training at the University of Pennsylvania where he also obtained a Masters in Translational Research. Dr. Luk’s research aims to untangle the relationship between the formation of alpha-synuclein pathology that characterizes several neurodegenerative disorders including multiple system atrophy. Using a multidisciplinary approach spanning in vitro, cell-based, and in vivo models, his team interrogates the mechanisms by which misfolded forms of this protein act as pathological agents that self-propagate and spread throughout the nervous system. His group also focuses on developing new cell- and animal-based models of synucleinopathy and innovative tools for the detecting disease-related proteins. This knowledge is currently being leveraged towards novel therapeutic strategies for these disorders.

Prof. Meissner is Head of the Department of Neurology for Neurodegenerative Diseases at the University Hospital Bordeaux, Chair of the French Reference Center for Multiple System Atrophy (MSA), and Deputy Director of the Institute for Neurodegenerative Diseases (CNRS UMR 5293) at the University of Bordeaux. He received his medical degree in 1997 from Humboldt University Berlin in Germany and his Board Certification in Neurology in 2005 after completing his residency at the Charité University Hospital in Berlin and the University Hospital Bordeaux. In 2005, he was awarded a PhD in Neuroscience at the University of Bordeaux. He was appointed Professor of Neurology at the University of Bordeaux in 2012. Prof. Meissner is the current Treasurer of the International Parkinson and Movement Disorder Society (MDS). He has authored more than 200 peer-reviewed publications, mainly dealing with Parkinson’s disease (PD) and MSA. His recent research focuses on biological and clinical markers of disease progression in PD and MSA, and the development of new treatments for these disorders.

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Dr. Sonja Scholz is a physician-scientist specialized in neurodegeneration. She received her MD from the Medical University of Innsbruck in Austria and her PhD in Neurogenomics from the University College London, UK. After completing an adult neurology residency training at the Johns Hopkins University, she joined the National Institutes of Health, where she is currently a tenure track investigator and chief of the Neurodegenerative Diseases Research Unit, and an adjunct Associate Professor of Neurology at Johns Hopkins University.


Her primary area of research is the genetic characterization of parkinsonism syndromes, including Parkinson’s disease, multiple system atrophy, and other diseases. She specializes in applying modern genomic techniques and data-driven approaches to assess the molecular genetic mechanisms of neurodegenerative disorders and to identify targets that are suitable for disease-modifying therapeutic interventions.

Iva Stankovic MD, PhD is a board certified neurologist and movement disorder specialist practicing at the Neurology Clinic, Clinical Center of Serbia, University of Belgrade, Belgrade, Serbia. Her main areas of research are multiple system atrophy and Parkinson’s disease. Her research focus is around early diagnosis of these disorders, and her largest MSA-related project was to coordinate development of the MDS criteria for the diagnosis of MSA. Currently she is serving as a chair of the Education Committee of Movement Disorders Society- European Section, and as a member of several task forces and working groups within Movement Disorder Society (including MDS MSA study group and UMSARS revision task force) and European Academy of Neurology (including guidelines for symptomatic treatment of atypical parkinsonian syndromes working group).

Paula Trujillo is a Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Neurology’s Cognitive Division at Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC). Her research focuses on the development of novel quantitative brain MRI and PET biomarkers for neurodegenerative diseases, as well as the development of methods that combine multi-modal imaging, cognitive, and clinical data. A recent emphasis of her work has been on the multi-site implementation of MRI protocols for utilization in clinical trials. During the last ten years, she has been involved in multiple research studies, in which she has led the design of the experimental protocols, MRI acquisition, data processing, and analysis. Prior to her current appointment, Dr. Trujillo completed postdoctoral research fellowships at VUMC and at the National Research Council of Italy. She earned her Ph.D. in Bioengineering from Politecnico di Milano in Milan, Italy, and her M.S. in Biomedical Engineering from Politecnico di Torino in Turin, Italy. She completed her bachelor’s degree in Electronics Engineering at the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana in Bogota, Colombia.