National MS Society Accepting Proposals for Pathways to Cure Roadmap

Marta Figueiredo, PhD avatar

by Marta Figueiredo, PhD |

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The National Multiple Sclerosis Society is accepting submissions for funding of new researcher-initiated proposals that help advance multiple sclerosis (MS) research and care in line with its Pathways to Cures Roadmap — to stop the disease in its tracks, restore what has been lost, and find a cure for all forms of MS.

The funding announcement follows the investment of more than $8.7 million over the summer to support several research and care initiatives.

Research proposals must clearly state their relevance to at least one of the questions outlined in the society’s Roadmap, and applicants should possess an MD, PhD, or equivalent. Applications can be submitted until Nov. 17.

Awarded projects will receive up to $200,000 annually for up to three years and are expected to begin on April 1, 2022.

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Developed in consultation with scientific experts, healthcare providers, and people affected by MS, the Roadmap includes three pathways: STOP, RESTORE, and END.

The goal of the STOP pathway is to halt MS activity and progression by improving early detection and precision medicine. Improved biomarkers of early disease, prognosis, and treatment responses are needed, as are new molecular targets to prevent further neurodegeneration.

Several knowledge gaps also remain on the biological processes driving early and later stages of the disease, and on the roles of aging, sex, ethnicity, race, and genetics in MS development, progression, and treatment response.

The RESTORE pathway aims to restore function that patients have lost by reversing nerve damage and symptoms.

There is an urgent need for molecular targets and therapeutic approaches that promote nerve cell and myelin repair (remyelination), as well as for biomarkers and measures of remyelination. Myelin is the fatty protective sheath around nerve fibers that is progressively lost in MS.

Rehabilitation and symptom management strategies that can restore function, reverse symptoms, and improve quality of life are also needed. Understanding how rehabilitation and exercise can affect the brain and spinal cord and whether they can facilitate repair processes will be key to identify such strategies.

Finally, the goal of the END pathway is to end MS by preventing new cases. This will first involve the identification of all relevant risk factors for MS and understand whether any is necessary and sufficient to cause the disease.

Then, the goal is to use early biomarkers and screening tools to limit exposure to MS risk factors in the general population, and to identify people at higher risk so that appropriate interventions could lessen or eliminate the impact of MS before symptom onset.

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The Roadmap is expected to help focus global resources on the most pressing research questions in MS and speed scientific breakthroughs that may lead to cures for all MS patients.

In its funding announcement, the Society emphasized that it supports all types of research including laboratory models, human studies, population-based approaches, and data-intensive investigations that leverage both researcher- and patient-reported outcomes.

The Society also values studies that promote collaboration between researchers in several disciplines, support data and resource sharing, and focus on underserved or understudied ethnic and racial MS populations.

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