Lawrence Jacobs, Pioneer in MS Research, Dies at 63

By Lois Baker

Release Date: November 5, 2001

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- A Mass of Christian Burial will be held tomorrow (Nov. 6, 2001) in St. Joseph University Church for Lawrence D. Jacobs, M.D., world-renowned researcher in the treatment of multiple sclerosis who was professor and chair of the Department of Neurology in the University at Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

Jacobs died Nov. 2 in Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. He was 63.

Jacobs' ground-breaking research, geared toward developing better treatment for relapsing multiple sclerosis, led to the development of the drug Avonex, the most widely prescribed drug used to treat this debilitating form of multiple sclerosis.

As early as 1981, Jacobs' research showed that early treatment of multiple sclerosis with interferon beta-1a significantly reduced the rate of progression and impact of the disease, which often includes brain and nerve damage.

Jacobs funded his initial work privately, eventually attracting multi-million dollar grants from the National Institutes for Health.

In 2000, the New England Journal of Medicine published the results of a large-scale study, led by Jacobs, of the benefits of beta-1a interferon in treating multiple sclerosis, which led to the Harvard Health Letter naming his research as one of the 10 leading health advances for 2000.

After earning his medical degree from St. Louis University and completing his residency at Mount Sinai Hospital and School of Medicine in New York City, Jacobs returned to his native Buffalo, where he began his career in medicine as an attending physician at Millard Fillmore Hospital. He served as chief of research at the Dent Neurological Institute from 1985-89.

In 1987, he became director of the William C. Baird Multiple Sclerosis Research Center at Buffalo General Hospital, which was devoted to developing better treatments for the disease and excellence in patient education, clinical programs and support services. The Jacobs Neurological Institute, which he also directed, was dedicated in memory of his parents, Genevieve and Louis.

Jacobs held the Irvin and Rosemary Smith Chair in Neurology in the School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, established in 1998 with a $1.5 million endowment from Biogen, manufacturer of Avonex.

He authored more than 200 publications on neurology, and served on numerous medical journal editorial boards. He was the recipient of many awards, including the Stockton Kimball Award from the UB School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, the Stephen B. Kelley Award from the National multiple sclerosis Society of Western New York and Northwest Pennsylvania, and an honorary doctorate from D'Youville College. He also received a Dean's Award from the College of Arts and Sciences at Niagara University and the Alumni Merit Award from St. Louis University.

Jacobs served on the board of the International Federation of Multiple Sclerosis Societies, was past president of the American Society of Neuroimaging and was a founding member and former officer of the American Academy of Neurology Education and Research Foundation.

Jacobs is survived by his wife, the former Pamela Ryan, a member of the State University of New York Board of Trustees; three sons, Christopher L., Luke T. and Lawrence D. Jr., all of Buffalo; two daughters, Jessica H. Enstice of Snyder and Elizabeth R. of Buffalo; two brothers, Max of Captiva Island, Fla., and Jeremy M. of East Aurora, who is chair of the UB Council; two sisters, Michelle of Laguna Beach, Calif., and Jennifer of Phoenix; and a granddaughter.