The theme for this year’s World MS Day, “Bringing Us Closer,” focuses on how advances in multiple sclerosis research are getting us closer to helping those affected by MS and connecting MS researchers with the broader MS community.
We sat down with Evis Havari, Sanofi’s Laboratory Head of Neuroimmunology Immunomodulation, to learn more about what Sanofi is doing to maintain its commitment to discovering new therapeutic options for patients living with MS.
Evis Havari, Laboratory Head of Neuroimmunology Immunomodulation
Q: Can you tell us about your role at Sanofi?
I have been with the company for twelve years, originally joining Genzyme in 2006 prior to its 2011 acquisition by Sanofi. Since then I have had various roles, always involved in science. Currently, I am laboratory head of neuroimmunology immunomodulation. In this role, I manage a team of seven people working to develop immunomodulatory therapies, treatments that modify the immune response or the functioning of the immune system, for people living with multiple sclerosis (MS).
Q: What are your current projects?
Among our most advanced projects are two potential new disease modifying therapies for MS, each of which is very unique. One is an oral treatment that was designed to access the brain and spinal cord by crossing the blood-brain barrier and impact immune cell and brain cell signaling. This may help treat MS, and potentially other diseases of the central nervous system.
The other is a potential antibody therapy for MS. Antibodies are proteins made by the immune system that bind to specific markers on cells or tissues. This particular antibody is intended to block the interaction between two specific proteins; that interaction is a central regulator of multiple disease-causing mechanisms in MS.
I also lead a project team focused on better understanding the mechanism of action of one of our marketed MS treatments, with the goal of potentially developing future therapies that are similarly effective, and have an improved safety profile.
Q: What do you find most compelling about MS research?
We know much more about MS now than a decade ago and a lot is being learned each day through the successes and failures of current treatments. We are lucky to work in a time when we have the ability to understand the molecular changes brought on by therapies, and make connections between those changes, real-world patient outcomes, and the genetic profiles of patients. These are exciting times for research that are paving the way for personalized medicine in MS.
Q: What inspires your work?
So many people are touched by MS. For me, I’m personally connected by my cousin who was recently diagnosed. It feels good to work for a company that is driven by patients and science. I work with passionate and hard-working scientists who are motivated to make a difference.
I’m inspired knowing that I commit each day to a great cause and that some of what I am working on today has the potential to make a difference in someone’s life. I’m motivated knowing that our work here could make a difference so that, years from now, a patient may be able to stand up and cheer at their grandchild’s graduation. I’m inspired thinking that our work could make a difference to those who want to remain active, productive and successful members of society.
I go to work each day thinking of my cousin and all those who are depending on us to fight this disease. I see a bright future.
Evis working in the laboratory with colleague, Yanping Hu.