The first round of 22 research grants have been awarded to projects in nine countries by the International Progressive MS Alliance, with the goal of removing barriers to developing treatments for progressive MS.
The 22 projects were chosen from 195 research proposals submitted by researchers in 22 countries and reviewed by the Alliance’s 40-strong Scientific Review Committee. This first round of funding is the start of an ambitious program that will see a total of €22 million (nearly $30 million USD) invested in progressive MS research over the next six years. The funding is also intended to help forge international collaborative research networks — leveraging research already underway and stimulating new research.
The first grants are for short-term innovative pilot studies, with terms of one to two years, to begin filling knowledge and infrastructure gaps such as identifying and testing potential treatments; understanding nerve degeneration; and building databanks and biobanks repositories of biological samples for use in research to better understand long-term imaging, genetics, and outcomes associated with progressive MS.
The 22 first-round projects will focus on six areas:
- Clinical trials and outcome measures: Hasselt University (Belgium), Imperial College London (UK), John Hopkins University (USA), Mount Sinai School of Medicine (USA), Umeå University (Sweden)
- Biomarkers of progression: VU University Medical Center Amsterdam (Netherlands), Vall d’Hebron Research Institute (Spain)
- Gene studies: Karolinska Institute (Sweden), University of California-San Francisco (USA), The International Multiple Sclerosis Genetics Consortium (UK)
- Underlying pathology of progression: Brigham and Women’s Hospital (USA), VU University Medical Center Amsterdam (Netherlands), McGill University (Canada), Monash University (Australia), University of Edinburgh (UK), University of Verona (Italy), Yale University (USA)
“The research community’s response to our first call for innovative research proposals has been exceptional, and speaks to both the unmet need and the galvanizing force of this international initiative,” says Cynthia Zagieboylo, Chair of the Alliance’s Executive Committee and CEO of the National MS Society (USA), in a release. “For the first time, MS societies around the globe are funding research together, without considering geography, in order to find the answers the progressive MS community urgently needs.”
The International Progressive MS Alliance is a worldwide collaboration focused on finding solutions to progressive forms of multiple sclerosis that have so far eluded the scientific community.
Progress, severity, and specificity of MS symptoms are unpredictable, varying from person to person and from time to time in the same individual, making the disease difficult to diagnose and treat. But while each individual’s experience of MS is unique, with a different combination of symptoms and severity, everyone with the disease lives with uncertainty over whether it will progress and whether they will lose the ability to do things that matter most to them. As many as 80 percent of people with MS may develop a progressive form of the disease during their lifetime. A diagnosis of progressive MS kicks the challenge of living with MS to a new level because, unlike relapsing-remitting MS — the most common variant of the disease, there are no effective treatments for progressive MS.
Every day, people with progressive MS lose some of their capability to move, think, and connect with family, friends, and the world at large. While there are ten approved disease-modifying treatments for relapsing forms of MS, there are no approved disease-modifying or effective symptomatic treatments for progressive MS, and barriers are complex
Up to 65 percent of people with relapsing-remitting MS will eventually develop secondary progressive MS, while others (up to 15 percent) are diagnosed with progressive MS from the outset (primary progressive MS). Both primary and secondary progressive MS involve a sustained buildup of symptoms with an insidious increase in disability.
Primary-progressive MS is characterized by steadily worsening neurologic function from the beginning. The rate of progression may vary over time — with occasional plateaus and temporary, minor improvements — but, for 90 percent of people with primary progressive MS, there are few distinct relapses (also called attacks or exacerbations) or remissions.
Secondary-progressive MS follows an initial period of relapsing-remitting MS (the most common form of MS in people who are newly-diagnosed). In secondary progressive MS, the disease begins to worsen more steadily, with or without occasional attacks, slight remissions, or plateaus.
Progressive-relapsing MS is a categorization that is being phased out under a new MS classification standard to be published in 2014. For more information, visit: http://bit.ly/1p1wkfM
Although there is dramatic and life-changing progress in the understanding and treatment of relapsing remitting MS, the discoveries that will lead to treatment for progressive MS have remained stubbornly elusive.
The Progressive MS Alliance was initially established in 2012 as the International Progressive MS Collaborative by six original founding members that made a joint commitment to speed up the development of treatment for progressive MS by removing scientific and technology barriers.,In September 2013 the founding members entered into a memorandum of understanding, formally establishing the Progressive MS Alliance.
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The 22 first-round projects will be directed by scientists at leading research universities and companies in these key areas. Summaries of each grant can be viewed at: http://www.progressivemsalliance.org/
The Progressive MS Alliance