Distinguished spinal injury scientist dies

Lurgan born scientist, Dr Marie Filbin, whose research in the USA brought hope to victims of spinal cord injuries, has died.

Dr Filbin died last week in Cavan General Hospital following a long illness. She was in her 50s.

The distinquished professor had studied in England before moving to America, citing the Troubles and a lack of opportunities in the 1970s and 1980s for leaving.

After the University of Maryland and Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore she joined Hunter College at the City of New York where she held titles including Associate Professor and Distinguished Professor.

Dr Filbin had directed the college’s Specialized Neuroscience Research Programme since 2000.

Among those helped by her work were victims of spinal cord injuries after she discovered that a drug, developed as an anti-depressant, could help regenerate damaged nerves.

In 2001 she was named co-recipient of the Ameritec Prize for significant accomplishment toward a cure for paralysis.

Dr Filbin’s family have paid tribute to the esteemed scientist.

Damian Glover described his aunt as a very caring woman who was ‘always willing to help people out’.

He said she had also loved to travel and ‘always spoke highly of Lurgan and returned there on many occasions’.

“She was dedicated to her work and family,” he said.

In a tribute to her on the Hunter College website, it states: “Dr. Filbin’s groundbreaking work describes the chemical environment of an injured nervous system and the factors that influence the regrowth of axons from the injury site. Her work has been crucial to understanding paralysis and developing drugs that may someday be used to reverse spinal cord injury.

“Throughout her remarkable career, Dr. Filbin championed Hunter College and eagerly conveyed to colleagues and reporters that it was possible to teach at an urban public college and have an outstanding research career. ‘Hunter,’ she told The New York Times in 2004, ‘is a great place for a researcher. My students are wonderful.’ She will be remembered as a fierce advocate for her students as well as a superb scientist, one who frequently went beyond the role of mentor to improve students’ lives. Along with her zest for knowledge, she was also passionate about her colleagues, friends and family, her native Ireland, New York City, the arts, travel, food, and her beloved West Highland terrier, Angus McDuff, who enjoyed the run of her lab.