The company behind FDA-approved multiple sclerosis drug AVONEX® (Interferon beta-1a), Biogen Idec, together with the government of the province of Alberta, has just awarded a newly launched research program in the University of Alberta a grant worth $1.4 million to build on the institution’s top-tier MS research expertise and capabilities.
Leading the new Multiple Sclerosis Experimental Therapeutics Program at the University is Dr. Fabrizio Giuliani, an associate professor of neurology and medical director of the Northern Alberta MS Clinic. “We want to offer the possibility to every patient to be part of a study, to participate in the research and development,” he said. “We’ll be able to show patients that we have research that is at the most advanced stages of development, and I think they will be really happy about that.” What moved him to spearhead the program was his regular encounters with MS patients aged 15-45 years old who were prematurely struggling with disabilities, when they were still young enough to live a full life.
The new program’s mission is to more efficiently translate fundamental research — both pre-clinical and clinical — to patient care, and accurate, timely diagnoses. Affiliated researchers also plan on developing novel treatments and modalities to stop, if not, reverse the neurodegenerative damage caused by multiple sclerosis, in order to prevent or reduce disability.
“As a company dedicated to supporting innovation in MS research and care, Biogen Idec Canada is proud to be part of this important partnership,” said Len Walt, associate director of medical affairs, Biogen Idec. “Supporting innovative research that could one day advance MS care and treatment is important to us, and collaborations like this are critical to pursuing those advances.”
The dean of the university’s Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry, D. Douglas Miller, said the new program follows the inauguration of the Neuroscience and Mental Health Institute. He believes this public-private collaboration will only strengthen the parties’ positions in MS research and development, and bring much-needed knowledge and relief to the MS community.
The Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada estimates MS to affect 14,000 Alberta residents, with the entire country having the most number of registered MS patients worldwide. Dr. Giuliani believes the launch of a new research center will significantly help drive more attention, support, and patient research participation towards finding a cure for MS, and that this partnership with Biogen Idec is only the beginning of fostering groundbreaking research at the university.