Published January 3, 2024
M. Laura Feltri, MD, an internationally renowned pioneer in the study and treatment of myelin diseases in the nervous system, died Dec. 25 in her native Italy after a long and courageous battle with cancer. She was 60.
A widely respected scholar and a member of the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences faculty, she was a SUNY Distinguished Professor of biochemistry and neurology in the Jacobs School and director of UB’s Institute for Myelin and Glia Exploration.
She was elected a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) earlier this year for her lifetime achievements.
“Dr. Feltri was an internationally recognized neuroscientist, a mentor to many and a friend to all,” said Allison Brashear, MD, MBA, vice president for health sciences at UB and dean of the Jacobs School. “The school will be working with her many friends to honor her legacy in the coming year.”
Her research focused on multiple sclerosis (MS); Charcot-Marie-Tooth (CMT) disease, which affects the peripheral nerves; and Krabbe leukodystrophy, a rare, fatal neurological disease that afflicts newborns.
With major funding from the National Institutes of Health, Feltri made numerous seminal discoveries in her field, including developing the first mutagenesis tool for studying the development of Schwann cells, which generate myelin, and the signals that regulate myelination. In collaboration with her husband, Lawrence Wrabetz, MD, she pioneered the use of transgenic animals to model neurological diseases and develop new therapies.
In her career, Feltri authored over 140 peer-reviewed research articles.
Numerous national and international organizations sought Feltri’s expertise. She served on the review panel of the Muscular Dystrophy Association and the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. She was first a member and then chair of the Cellular & Molecular Biology of Glia Study section of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke of the NIH. She also served as scientific advisor to the Charcot Marie Tooth Association, the CMT4B3 Research Foundation and KrabbeConnect.
“Laura was a joy to work with. Despite receiving many accolades, she was self-critical and sought constantly to improve her scholarship, teaching and mentoring,” said Mark R. O’Brian, PhD, professor and chair of the Jacobs School’s Department of Biochemistry. “She made us all better.”
Early in her career, Feltri was awarded the International Society for Neurochemistry’s Young Investigators’ Colloquia Award. In 2020, she was an invited speaker at the Nobel Mini-Symposium at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm.
Feltri was an excellent adviser and mentor to numerous undergraduate, master’s and doctoral students and in 2013 UB’s Office of Postdoctoral Scholars awarded her a Distinguished Postdoc Mentor Award.
She was president-elect of the Peripheral Nerve Society and served on the editorial board of various journals and the boards of several scientific organizations.
Feltri earned her medical degree and did her residency in neurology at the University of Milano. She was a postdoctoral fellow at Thomas Jefferson University. She was a faculty member and head of the NeuroGlia Unit at the San Raffaele Scientific Institute in Milano, Italy before joining the UB faculty in 2011.
Survivors include her husband and five children.