The National Multiple Sclerosis Society in the U.S. has awarded a new grant to a University College London (UCL) research team to continue work into compounds with the potential to act as neuroprotective therapies for degenerative diseases like multiple sclerosis (MS). The financial support comes through the Society’s business-oriented subsidiary, the Fast Forward venture.
Professor David Selwood of UCL and his team is partnering with Professor David Baker of Queen Mary University of London to carry out further research into, and testing of, preclinical drug candidates that show potential for the therapeutic prevention of nerve loss in MS patients. Previous Fast Forward grants also supported the team’s work into these candidates.
“We are delighted to be funded to continue the development of these exciting prototype medicines targeted at reducing nerve loss in people with the progressive form of MS,” said Professor Selwood in a news release.
Fast Forward focuses on driving and facilitating the commercial development of crucial research findings through money made available through both a general and collaborative funding model. According the venture’s website, this “unique model” allows for a wide range of funding on a rolling RFP — Request for Proposals — basis, as well as on specific RFP cycles.
The grant amount was not disclosed in the release.
MS is a progressive, immune-mediated, debilitating disease where the myelin sheath — the cover that insulates all neurons — in the central nervous system (CNS) becomes increasingly damaged through inflammation. In MS, the patients’ own immune system attacks the myelin sheaths when the T cells cross the blood-brain barrier to attack the epitopes presented by the myelin cells. The precise target of these T cells and the cause of their behavior remains unknown.
“The UCL team has made considerable progress on the development of compounds aimed at reducing demyelination and nerve loss in MS. This award enables pharmacologic improvements to those compounds to optimize potency while minimizing toxicity, thereby advancing a candidate drug towards the clinic,” concluded Dr. Mark Allegretta, the National MS Society’s associate vice president of Commercial Research.
The university’s technology transfer arm, UCL Business PLC (UCLB), supported the team with its grant application and holds filed patents related to its discoveries.