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MGA News

July 1997

1997 Santa Monica Conference

Prof J Newsom-Davies


Santa Monica, California, May 7-10th 1997

Professor John Newsom-Davis FRS
Head of the Neuroscience’s Group
Institute of Molecular Medicine
John Radcliffe Hospital

This conference is sponsored by the New York Academy of Sciences, jointly with the Myasthenia Gravis Foundation of America. It is held about every 5 years. I thought that MGA supporters would like to hear about it, and especially to know of the Oxford Group’s contribution. Eighteen of us attended the meeting, including Angela Vincent, Nick Willcox, David Beeson and Bethan Lang. Just in case you were thinking the meeting was held on the beach, or that we spent the time by the swimming pool, I shall start by emphasising how hard we all worked. We arrived on the Wednesday evening (after an 11.1/2 hour flight) and started work next morning at 8.30am.

The lunchbreak lasted little more than 30 minutes, and the meeting went on until well after 7pm each day. The meeting ended on the Saturday evening, and most of our group returned overnight to the UK, although I stayed on as a member of the Medical Panel to answer questions from the Californian Chapter of the American MG Foundation. My co-panelists were Dr Audrey Penn, from the National Institutes of Health at Bethesda and Dr Dan Drachman from the Neurology Department of John Hopkins University. A video was taken of the session (which I have not yet seen), that may perhaps be of interest to MGA members.

This International Conference is the occasion when research groups from all over the world present their best research work on myasthenia. Our Group made three major presentations. Angela Vincent described the Group’s work on antibodies that can affect the unborn babies of myasthenic mothers (as described briefly in last year’s report) and the nature of the antibodies in "seronegative" MG. Nick Willcox outlined the Group’s research on the role of thymoma in MG (he will be shortly providing a report on this for the MGA Annual Report) and our attempts to understand the role of T cells that "help" antibody production in MG, together with experimental approaches to controlling this autoimmune response. Bethan Lang gave the principal presentation on the Lambert-Eaton myasthenic syndrome, describing the Group’s success in analysing the nature of the anti-calcium channel antibodies in this disease. In addition to this, the Group had no fewer than 17 ‘poster demonstrations’ in which particular research findings were described, and provided the focus for discussions with other members of the conference.

I am not embarrassed to say that the contributions from the Oxford Group were truly outstanding, and provoked much interested discussion. They were also collectively the largest of any of the contributors and this is an opportunity for us to thank you, who support our research, for making these contributions possible. We were very pleased that Dr Stan Freedman was also present at the meeting, and he can perhaps provide a more objective evaluation than mine of the Oxford contribution! The meeting was a marvellous opportunity for young (and not so young) myasthenic researchers to meet each other, to make new contacts, to discuss and argue about our research findings and to exchange ideas and perhaps to establish new research collaborations. There were no major breakthroughs, but nevertheless many important findings. Manuscripts have been submitted to the Secretary at the New York Academy of Sciences, and all the papers and posters will be published next year.

MGA NEWS July 1997
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