Neuroimmunological Disorders Gene-Environment Epidemiology Lab

NDGE Lab Logo

Neuroimmunological disorders (NDs) are a related collection of immune-mediated, demyelinating diseases of the central nervous system. Collectively, NDs are the leading cause of acquired neurological disability in young and middle aged adults. Unfortunately, there are no cures and therapeutics primarily target immune response and symptom management, and have limited impact on reducing disability accumulation. The most prevalent ND is multiple sclerosis (MS) – affecting upwards of 700,000 - 900,000 Americans, with more than 12,000 new diagnoses per year in the United States. Other NDs are much less common and rare, and include neuromyelitis optica (NMO), transverse myelitis (TM), and acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (ADEM) – precise estimates of prevalence and incidence for these rare NDs do not exist.

The lab aims to characterize NDs across various populations, and elucidate genetic and environmental/lifestyle determinants of onset, clinical presentation, comorbidity burden, and disability accrual. Thus, we are developing a diverse research portfolio to tackle critical micro, individual and macro-level questions to advance epidemiologic and clinical knowledge of NDs with the hope of advancing clinical cares and the lives of those living with NDs.

View recent team activities


The Team

Principal Investigator 
Farren Briggs

Farren Briggs, PhD, ScM
Assistant Professor

View publications

Current Graduate Student Trainees

Elina Misicka

Elina Misicka
PQHS 3Y Doctoral Student (2018-present)
Projects: 1. Identifying baseline factors predictive of transition to secondary progress MS from relapsing remitting MS; 2. Investigating causal relationships between cardiometabolic traits and MS outcomes

Claire Sonneborn

Claire Sonneborn
PQHS 1Y MS Biostatistics Student (2020-present)
Project: Investigating childhood exposures and risk for MS, NMO, and TM



Alena Sorensen

Alena Sorensen

PQHS 2Y MPH Student (2020-present)
Projects: Characterizing MS patients burden with comorbidities. Profiling IMPACT scores in youth over time

Emily Tyszka

Emily Tyszka
PQHS 2Y MPH Student (2020-present)
Project: Determining the impact of mental health on physical activity in persons with MS

 Former Post-Doctoral Trainee

Yanina Natanzon

Yanina Natanzon, PhD MS
NDGE Post-Doctoral Fellow (2016)
Currently a Senior Clinical Epidemiologist at Syapse
Formerly a NCI R25 Fellow at the Mayo Clinic
Project: Developing a multi-omic framework for predicting MS status



Former Graduate Student Trainees


Eddie Hill

Eddie Hill, MD 
Current position: Resident Physician, UC San Diego School of Medicine 

Project: Characterizing the burden of hypertension and asthma in MS


Blaine Martyn-Dow

Blaine Martyn-Dow
Non-Degree Graduate Research Assistant (2018-present)
Project: Comparing persons with MS with respect to polyautoimmunity

Jordan Bley

Jordan Bley, MPH
Non-Degree Graduate Research Assistant (2019)
GWU MPH Practicuum Trainee (2018)
Currently a Epidemiology Doctoral Student at Vanderbilt University
Project: Investigating the role of MS risk factors on multiple aspects of MS disability


Frances Wang


Frances Wang, MS
PQHS MS Biostatistics Research Assistant (2018-2019)
Currently an Epidemiology Doctoral Student at John Hopkins SPH
Project: Utilizing genetic and clinical factors to predict depression risk after MS onset



Justin Yu

Justin Yu, MS
PQHS MS Biostatistics Research Assistant (2017-2018)
Currently an Epidemiology Doctoral Student at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Project: Investigating the contribution of susceptibility factors on early clinical expression of MS




Jinghong Jiangyang

Jinghong Jiangyang, MS
PQHS MS Biostatistics Research Assistant (2017-2018)
Currently a Data and Policy Analyst at Acumen, LLC
Project: Predicting diagnostic delays in persons with MS





Paola Saroufim

Paola Saroufim, PharmD MPH
PQHS MPH Research Assistant (2015-2017)
Currently a Research Scientist at CWRU/Cleveland Institute for Computational Biology
Project: Profiling cardiovascular conditions in MS, NMO, and TM




Former Undergraduate Student Trainees

Sophia Zweig

Sophia Zweig
Major: Biology
Research Intern (2016-2017)
Currently an MPH student at John Hopkins SPH
Project: Describing cardiovascular, autoimmune, and allergic conditions in MS, NMO, and TM



Shannon Fu

Shannon Fu
Major: Statistics
SAGES Senior Capstone Student
Currently a Modeling Analyst at KeyBank
Project: Comparative analysis of health-outcomes by healthcare-seeking behaviors in persons with MS




Corriene Sept

Corriene (Corri) Sept

Major: Statistics; Minor: Bioethics & Medical Humanities 

Currently a PhD candidate in Biostatistics with the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health