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Acclaimed clinical researcher, Professor Laurent Servais, has been appointed Professor of Paediatric Neuromuscular Diseases at the MDUK Oxford Neuromuscular Centre. The centre is a partnership between Muscular Dystrophy UK (MDUK) and the University of Oxford with the aim of driving research into potential treatments from the lab into the clinic.

Professor Servais will join the MDUK Oxford Neuromuscular Centre with a wealth of experience within the neuromuscular field. He has overseen numerous clinical trials to test treatments for Duchenne muscular dystrophy and spinal muscular atrophy (SMA). He is also the leader of the newborn screening program for SMA in southern Belgium. His main research expertise covers the development of innovative outcome measures, including connected devices for real-life patients’ evaluation.

Professor Servais is currently Head of the Institute I-Motion, in Paris, and Head of the Neuromuscular Centre in Liège, Belgium. He is also a Professor of Child Neurology at Liège University. He will cease his activity in Paris, but will keep an affiliation in his hometown hospital and university as an invited Professor.  Professor Servais will start his tenure with the MDUK Oxford Neuromuscular Centre in September 2019 and will relocate to Oxford from Belgium.

Commenting on his appointment, Professor Servais, said:
“I’m really pleased to be joining the MDUK Oxford Neuromuscular Centre. It is an exciting time for research as we build our understanding of muscle-wasting conditions and more potential treatments are discovered. I look forward to joining the buoyant department of paediatrics and this team of brilliant and committed scientists, project managers and physicians, and bringing my experience of clinical trial development to the centre to help accelerate the process of bringing new treatments to patients.


I am very excited by the challenge to develop a team in such a stimulating human and scientific environment. I also truly believe that there is a high potential synergy between the Centres of Liège and Oxford, and that both sites may benefit from a close collaboration. - Professor Laurent Servais


Professor Matthew Wood, Director of the MDUK Oxford Neuromuscular Centre and Professor of Neuroscience at the University of Oxford, said:
“Laurent’s appointment is a real coup for the centre. With emerging treatments for muscle-wasting conditions on the horizon, the need and demand for clinical trials is greater than ever, but we know that a lack of staff and expertise can lead to fewer trials taking place. Laurent’s experience, particularly of designing and leading innovative clinical trials for Duchenne and SMA, will be invaluable if we are to lead the way in improving how clinical trials are managed and run. Only by doing this can we achieve our urgent goal of bringing new treatments to patients more quickly.”

The MDUK Oxford Neuromuscular Centre is housed by the University of Oxford’s Department of Paediatrics and was established in January 2019. It aims to speed up the process of translating scientific research into clinical trials and to improve infrastructure of such trials to make sure more of these take place more cost-effectively. This will in turn help people with muscle-wasting conditions access effective new treatments more quickly than ever before.



About Professor Laurent Servais

Professor Laurent Servais is the professor of the child neurology at the University of Liège in Belgium. As a paediatric neurologist, he has served as the Head of the Neuromuscular Reference Centre in Belgium since 2013. He is also one of the creators and the first director of Institute I-Motion in Paris since 2015 and has conducted many clinical developing programs in Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy and Spinal Muscular Atrophy.  He is the leader of a program that aims to bring digital endpoints to regulatory qualification and he is leading the EMA qualification process of the first digital endpoint in neuromuscular diseases. Professor Servais is also the leader of the newborn screening program for SMA in southern Belgium and has authored or co-authored more than 80 papers in peer-reviewed journals. These include New England Journal of Medicine, Nature Communications, Neurology, Lancet Neurology, PNAS, and Molecular Therapy.


About the MDUK Oxford Neuromuscular Centre

The MDUK Oxford Neuromuscular Centre is a partnership between Muscular Dystrophy UK and the University of Oxford. An investment of £1 million from the charity, and a significant investment from the university, is going towards new resources, including start-up seed funding for research costs and a number of new staff posts. This will boost translational research and capacity for clinical trials in Oxford. The MDUK Oxford Neuromuscular Centre is governed by a steering group of researchers all based at the University of Oxford: Professor Matthew JA Wood; Professor Dame Kay E Davies; Professor Georg A Holländer; and Professor Kevin Talbot.