Published August 10, 2020

Understanding Multiple Sclerosis

Neurologist’s research on MS led to approval of the first drugs to treat the condition.

Suhayl Dhib-Jalbut, a world leader in the study and treatment of multiple sclerosis (MS), participated in national clinical trials that led to the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of the first drugs for treating MS, and he was among the earliest investigators to discover the immunological pathways that underlie the mechanisms of action of these drugs in MS.

He is a professor and joint chair of the Departments of Neurology at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School (NJMS) and Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School (RWJMS). He also directs the Robert Wood Johnson Center for Multiple Sclerosis. The departments have a robust research program focused on MS and Parkinson’s disease.

His current research, which is funded by the National Institutes of Health, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, and industry, focuses on identifying biomarkers and predictors of clinical response to MS therapies, as well as on the connection between gut bacteria (the microbiome), diet, and MS.

Dhib-Jalbut’s many honors include the Norman H. Edelman Clinical Science Mentoring Award from RWJMS, the Medical Excellence Award from the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, the Edward J. Ill Award for Excellence in Medicine, and the New Jersey Health Foundation’s Excellence in Research Award.

He graduated from the American University of Beirut in Lebanon as a member of the Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society, and he completed his neurology training at the University of Cincinnati and the National Institutes of Health. He serves on the editorial boards of several leading journals and is past associate editor of Journal of Neuroimmunology. He also is past president of the Americas Committee for Treatment and Research in MS.

The Ruth Dunietz Kushner and Michael Jay Serwitz Chair in Multiple Sclerosis was established through proceeds from the Musical Moments for Multiple Sclerosis Benefit Concert held at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in 1998.

In the Professor’s Own Words

Why did you choose to pursue brain-related conditions? 

As a medical student, I was always fascinated by how the brain controls our physical activity, emotions, and behavior. More so, I was interested in how disease processes affect brain function and what can be done about it. I was lucky to have a mentor who was interested in brain research and inspired me to pursue a research career in neurology.

What areas of MS research are most promising?

Understanding how the genetic background of the patient and the environment interact with the immune system to result in MS. Such understanding has been and is likely to continue to be the key for developing MS therapies.

What is the most personally fulfilling aspect of your work?

Advancing the understanding of MS through basic and translational research and mentoring and advancing the careers of young faculty.

What aspect of your work is the most challenging?

Identifying adequate resources for research and training.


This story is part of Rutgers University Foundation’s Endowed Chairs Impact series. Supporting professorships and research helps spark innovation and creativity here in New Jersey and beyond.