For Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month and leading up to May 30, World MS Day, EMD Serono, Canada, is taking a virtual reality program to three Canadian cities to help educate people about multiple sclerosis and its impact.
The biopharmaceutical company wants to help people better understand what it means to live with MS, especially has Canada has one of the highest rates of MS worldwide.
To do this, it helped to create a 10-minute virtual reality experience called “MS from the Inside Out,”which take users into the brain of someone living with the disease. It explores complexity of MS by stimulating visual and auditory symptoms that many patients experience day-by-day, rather than their more evident mobility difficulties.
“It is challenging for people — even loved ones of those living with MS — to understand the disease’s symptoms and the extent of its physical and emotional effects because at times, it can be invisible and unpredictable,” said Mark Freedman, professor of neurology at the University of Ottawa. “Having the ability to use virtual reality to provide Canadians with this real-life experience could be instrumental in increasing empathy and awareness for this complex disease.”
The program revolves around the lives of two MS patients, Tom and Karen. Through virtual reality, viewers can experience the unseen burden that accompanies the disease — both by the patient and those close to her or him, and acquire a sense of how it affects others, especially family members like young children.
“Last year, we shared this immersive VR [virtual reality] experience in Toronto and it received an overwhelmingly positive response,” Gaby Murphy, president and managing director of EMD Serono, Canada, said in a press release. “We felt it was important to continue that work and bring this experience across the country so that more Canadians can experience MS from the Inside Out, and learn about the challenges faced by those living with the disease and the people around them.”
Stops in three Canadian cities are planned: Victoria on May 7, at 5:00 p.m. (Hotel Grand Pacific, 463 Belleville St.); Winnipeg on May 22, at 6:00 p.m. (The Fairmont Winnipeg, 2 Lombard Place); and Edmonton on May 30, at 5:00 p.m. (Winspear Centre, 4 Sir Winston Churchill Square).
“MS from the Inside Out” is an initiative of Merck KGaA Darmstadt, Germany, which owns EMD Serono, Canada.
Estimates are that 1 in every 340 people in Canada are living with the disease.