What to Expect from the 2021 American Academy of Neurology Annual Meeting


The 2021 AAN Annual Meeting will be held virtually from April 17-22. Follow along with coverage from NeurologyLive, including expert interviews and session recaps.

Natalia S. Rost, MD, MPH, FAHA, FAAN, chair, AAN Science Committee; chief, Stroke Division, Massachusetts General Hospital; and professor of neurology, Harvard Medical Schoo

Natalia S. Rost, MD, MPH, FAHA, FAAN

The table has been set for the 2021 American Academy of Neurology (AAN) Annual Meeting, with a shift to a virtual platform after last year’s meeting, like so many others, was derailed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The virtual platform will kick off on Saturday, April 17, and run through Thursday, April 22, featuring a vast number of speakers and sessions and thousands of poster presentations. Natalia S. Rost, MD, MPH, FAHA, FAAN, chair, AAN Science Committee; chief, Stroke Division, Massachusetts General Hospital; and professor of neurology, Harvard Medical School, noted that the theme of this year’s meeting will be the celebration of science.

“I'm grateful to have an opportunity to speak to you again after a year of hiatus caused by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Rost said in the opening press conference. “While this has been a trying year for the entire world, specifically, it's been immensely difficult for the medical community and the community of scientists for many of whom their lives were rudely interrupted by the virus. But this also has been the year of tremendous triumph of science, with the extraordinary breakthroughs in diagnosis, vaccine development, and treatments for COVID-19 infection.”

Rost explained that while the format of the meeting is certainly unusual—and one she hopes won't require repeating in the coming years—it offers a solid foundation to build from, and as has been the case for many scientific organizations over the last year, has allowed for the integration of technology advances into the communication of ideas and data.

“Despite all the odds of last year, with over 2000 original abstracts submissions to our virtual annual meeting this year, it's telling me that resilience, remarkable creativity, and academic drive are alive and well among my neuroscience colleagues,” she said.

In the opening press conference, Rost discussed her top 3 selections for the most groundbreaking scientific research being presented at the meeting, importantly noting that all were presented by women, representing the leadership roles and momentum being gained by women in science. This, she said “is another reason for us to celebrate and rejoice.”

Among the long list of highly anticipated presentations of data selected as top science was a presentation regarding the repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic from Thanh N. Nguyen, MD, of Boston University School of Medicine; data on the investigational agent AMX0035 in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), presented by Sabrina Paganoni, MD, PhD, of Massachusetts General Hospital; and findings on the utility of total tau and neurofilament light in neurodegenerative disease, from Michelle M, Mielke, PhD, of Mayo Clinic.

The opening day of the meeting includes a plenary session titled, “Frontiers in Neuroscience,” directed by Paul M. George, MD, PhD, MSE, which highlights some of the basic and translational research into clinical issues of importance. Afterward, George will moderate a live “fireside chat” with the speakers for question-and-answer opportunities. The session, which begins at 10:00 AM ET, includes the following presentations:

  • Organization and Control of Hippocampal Circuits — presented by Ivan Soltesz, PhD
  • Decoding Speech Cortex — presented by Edward F. Chang, MD
  • Microtubules in Health and Disease — presented by Antonina Roll-Mecak, PhD
  • Stem Cell Therapy for Spinal Cord Injury: Transition to the Clinic — presented by Mark H. Tuszynski, MD, PhD, FAAN
  • Dissecting the Control of Blood Flow Through Brain Capillaries — presented by Andy Shih, PhD

Additionally, a number of awards for work in research and excellence will be presented over the course of the meeting by the speakers being honored, including the AB Baker Award for Lifetime Achievement in Neurologic Education Keynote Presentation, the Potamkin Prize for Research in Pick’s, Alzheimer’s Disease, and Related Diseases, the Sheila Essey Award for ALS Research, the Norman Geschwind Prize in Behavioral Neurology, and the John Dystel Prize for Multiple Sclerosis Research, among others. As well, the Medical Student Essay Award and Saul R. Korey Presentation will be given at this year’s meeting.

There is also a trio of hot topic-focused sessions scheduled for the course of the conference, with Saturday, April 17, featuring a Neuro-COVID Plenary Session headlined by Rost and George. Then, on Monday, April 19, a midday networking session will offer attendees an opportunity to learn about the AAN’s advocacy work and its Advocacy Committee leadership, facilitated by Nick Johnson, MD, FAAN, and Michael Markowski, DO, FAAN. Following that, a late-day CME session led by Melissa Yu, MD, FAAN, will review concepts of anti-amyloid therapies in Alzheimer disease, as well as the potential indications and considerations for implementation of said therapies in clinical practice.

Also on Monday, beginning at 10:00 AM ET, Holly E. Hinson, MD, MCR, FAAN, and Deborah Hall, MD, PhD, FAAN, will lead a plenary session on current clinical trials conducted over the last year. The session will feature the following presentations:

  • ESCAPE-NA1 (Efficacy and Safety of Nerinetide for the Treatment of Acute Ischemic Stroke) — presented by Michael Tymianski, MD, PHD, FRCSC
  • Atogepant Significantly Reduces Mean Monthly Migraine Days in the Phase 3 Trial (ADVANCE) for the Preventive Treatment of Migraine — presented by Jessica Ailani, MD, FAAN
  • Efficacy and Safety of Lower-Sodium Oxybate in a Phase 3, Placebo-Controlled, Double-Blind, Randomized Withdrawal Study in Adult Participants With Idiopathic Hypersomnia — presented by Yves Dauvilliers, MD, PhD
  • Efficacy, Safety, and Tolerability of Efgartigimod in Patients With Generalized Myasthenia Gravis: Analysis of the Phase 3 ADAPT Study — presented by James F. Howard, Jr., MD, FAAN
  • Sustained Benefits for 10 kHz Spinal Cord Stimulation Treatment of Painful Diabetic Neuropathy: 6-Month Results from a Multicenter Randomized Controlled Trial — presented by Erika Petersen
  • Randomized Trial of Focused Ultrasound Subthalamotomy for Parkinson’s Disease — presented by Raúl Martinez-Fernandez
  • Efficacy and Safety Results of the Avalglucosidase alfa Phase 3 COMET Trial in Late-Onset Pompe Disease Patients — presented by Hani Kushlaf, MD, FAAN
  • Leriglitazone Improved Progression of Myelopathy-related Symptoms, and Reduced Cerebral Lesions in Patients with Adrenomyeloneuropathy in a Phase 2/3 Clinical Study — presented by Reza Seyedsadjadi, MD
  • FINTEPLA (Fenfluramine) Treatment Improves Everyday Executive Functioning in Patients With Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome: Analysis From a Phase 3 Clinical Trial — presented by Kim I. Bishop, PhD

“I'd like to thank the presenters for doing exciting science at the times when it's most challenging,” Rost said. “I hope that you all have an opportunity to learn about the entire breadth of the AAN scientific program throughout our upcoming meeting, and we'll see you in the virtual hallways of the annual meeting later this week.”

NeurologyLive's coverage of the meeting will begin this week and will extend beyond its conclusion throughout the month of April. It will feature exclusive interviews with a number of experts across the breadth of neurology, as well as in-depth coverage of the top data presentations and addresses that help inform clinical care and decision-making. For more coverage of AAN 2021, click here, and check back regularly to see the latest.

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